§ Mr. Speaker
Before we start the important debate on the mining dispute and the Government's policy on the "Plan for Coal", may I remind the House that no fewer than 29 right hon. and hon. Ladies and Gentlemen have applied to speak. I have no power to control the length of speeches, but if hon. Members, particularly right hon. Members, limit their speeches to about 10 minutes, most hon. Members who wish to speak can be called.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
I beg to move,That this House strongly condemns the Government for its mishandling of the coalmining dispute and the way in which severe hardship has been inflicted on miners, mining families and communities and for its abandonment of the principles and objectives of the "Plan for Coal"; calls for the withdrawal of the plan to lose 20,000 jobs and close over 20 pits in the corning year, which was a unilateral decision of the National Coal Board; and believes that the Government should then call a tripartite meeting to project the "Plan for Coal" forward based on investment and an expansion of the coalmining industry which will be essential for Britain' s needs.After 13 weeks of a major dispute in one of our vital industries—incidentally a dispute not about wages but about jobs—we have had confirmed in the past 24 hours that the Government have been seeking not a negotiated settlement based on the "Plan for Coal", but a political victory over the miners. The Tories have been planning an orchestrated attack on the coal mining industry since the 1978 Ridley report. The revelations in the Daily Mirror confirms that the Government have been leading that attack.
I put it to the House and the Secretary of State that the Prime Minister should have found time to come to the House yesterday to answer questions on the letters published in the Daily Mirror yesterday. In her absence, will the Secretary of State confirm that those letters are authentic? The fact that the Prime Minister has set up an inquiry into the leak in effect makes them authentic. Therefore, will the results of the inquiry be published? The House has a right to be informed about that.
We have it on record that on 11 May at the Scottish Tory conference the Prime Minister said:We are not going to intervene in the coal dispute.That is obviously an untruth. We demand that the Prime Minister comes to the House and makes a statement at the earliest opportunity.
I have referred previously to the Ridley report and I shall have more to say about it shortly. The present Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), has taken an untoward interest in defeating the miners. In fact, his involvement in the dispute seems to have been greater than that of the Secretary of State for Energy. That is perhaps to be expected because the right hon. Member is one of the masterminds behind the Government's attack on the miners.
I hope that Conservative Members will listen carefully. In a report in 1978 the right hon. Member for Cirencester 457 and Tewkesbury pinpointed the coal industry as being the most likely battlefield for a future Tory Government. To prepare for this he suggested that a future Tory Government should build up coal stocks, particularly at power stations, make contingency plans for the import of coal, encourage hauliers to recruit non-union drivers, introduce dual coal-oil firing in all power stations, cut off the money supply to strikers and make the union finance them, and establish a large, mobile squad of police to deal with picketing. Every one of those points has been followed by the Government.
§ Mr. Orme
Yes, it is 10 out of 10. I am glad the hon. and learned Member recognises that.
The dispute has serious consequences for the economy and for many communities in the United Kingdom. That is why I deplore the action of the Government in backing the Ridley report, as has been confirmed by the leak in the Daily Mirror. I find the inactivity of the Secretary of State for Energy during the past 13 weeks unbelievable. After 13 weeks of a major strike he has not yet spoken to both sides. All we have had from him is an unhelpful interview in last Sunday's News of the World.
We made an attempt not to negotiate but to get talks going on a proper basis between the two sides. I invited Mr. Scargill and his colleagues to come to the House to see me, which they readily did. [Interruption.] I see nothing funny in that. The Secretary of State should have done it. Mr. Scargill explained the case of the National Union of Mineworkers. A couple of days later I asked to see Mr. MacGregor, to which he readily agreed. He put the National Coal Board's case. Following those exchanges and recognising the gap that existed between the two sides — I am not underestimating that— I felt that there was a basis for talks, and I said so. Talks have now started. [Interruption.] I shall let the public decide.
Talks are proceeding and I wish them every success. The point is that they are taking place against a threat from the Government because they are trying to implement a victory over the miners, not a negotiated settlement. That is central to the whole issue.
The 1978 blueprint for action by a Tory Government is being carried out to the letter, as confirmed by Conservative Members. The events of 1981 make it clear that since they came to power in 1979 the Government have been preparing to take on the miners. In 1981, as now, it was the Labour party who stood by the commitments in "Plan for Coal". It has repeatedly called on the Government to continue security of employment for mineworkers implicit in that programme for growth. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman is talking about the 1960s, yes, we closed pits and we made mistakes. We learnt from that. There were jobs for people to go to in those days. The Government have learnt nothing from that period.
In 1981 the National Coal Board, spurred on by the Government's financial targets laid down in the Coal Industry Act 1980, produced a pit closure programme that was not within the agreed specifications of "Plan for Coal" and was unacceptable to those working in the industry. Then, as now, the Government changed their mind. They began by refusing to accept their responsibilities both in terms of their general duties towards a nationalised industry and of their obligations to the tripartite nature of 458 "Plan for Coal". Then, as now, they stood aside from their duties and obligations. Yet, in 1981 the Government had an attack of realism under pressure and arranged a tripartite meeting with the National Coal Board and the unions. They relaxed their financial targets and the NCB withdrew its closure programme.
The right hon.Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who was then Secretary of State for Energy, was able to reaffirm his Government's commitment to "Plan for Coal" and toemphasise the Government's view of the vital importance of the coal industry to the country".However, by the time this dispute began, the Government had set the scene for a long and bitter struggle that they were determined to win, irrespective of the cost to the nation or to the workers in the industry. By then they had been able to adopt the Ridley blueprint and they were ready to take on the unions in the coal industry. By 1984 they had been able to build up coal stocks at power stations and pits.
§ Mr. Orme
I shall give way when I get to the end of this point.
The fiction of £15 a week strike pay is one of the Government's most vicious moves against working people. Other benefits have been denied in an attempt to starve the miners back to work. but because of the support of their families and communities the financial intimidation has not worked.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The right hon. Member has said that he is concerned about the members of the industry and their families. If that is so, would he not support the view that those people should have had a chance to vote on whether or not they should have a dispute?
§ Mr. Orme
That is an internal matter for the National Union of Mineworkers. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that all the miners are opposed to the MacGregor proposals. They responded to the overtime ban throughout.
It is clear that the build-up to the events of this year has been planned and orchestrated by the Government. The Coal Industry Act 1984 left us in no doubt that pit closures were on the cards with the reintroduction of short-sighted fiscal measures which again set a break-even target for the National Coal Board. Mr. MacGregor produced his plan for a further round of pit closures to meet those targets. The dispute began because of the high-handed manner in which the chairman of the NCB has planned for the future of the industry. His plans have been presented as a non-negotiable edict. That approach was guaranteed to create dissention and bitterness.
"Plan for Coal" was a tripartite agreement, and three months ago one of the parties, the NCB, unilaterally tore 459 it up. The future promised to miners at pits such as Cortonwood was flung aside. It was said that Cortonwood had five years of life and miners moved from other areas to live near it. However, it was given five weeks' notice to close. That is what the MacGregor proposals mean.
On 6 March the trade unions were presented with a formal statement by the board which, while invoking the principles set out in "Plan for Coal", in effect tore the plan to shreds. The unions were being presented with a plan for the rapid contraction of the industry and not one based on expansion, agreement and investment. It was then that the NCB admitted that the plan would mean the loss of 20,000 jobs this year and a cut in output to 97.4 million tonnes. Mr. MacGregor said that it would produce a baseline below which production would not need to fall. That statement is reminiscent of statements that he made when chairman of the British Steel Corporation. Unfortunately, the baseline continued to fall while he was in that position. It should have caused no surprise that Mr. MacGregor produced such a plan for the coal industry bearing in mind what happened during the three years when he was chairman of BSC. In 1980, BSC reduced its orders for coal from the NCB by 25 per cent. Meanwhile, Mr. MacGregor increased British Steel's consumption of imported coal from 14 per cent. to 24 per cent. of its total consumption.
The Government have achieved their objective. The demand for coal has shrunk. There has been a fall in electricity consumption of 30 per cent. since 1979. There has been a significant fall in consumption even outside the steel industry. It has taken place in a range of manufacturing enterprises, and at the same time there has been a levelling off of domestic electricity consumption. The consequences for the coal industry and its finances have been catastrophic and, in certain places, disastrous.
The result is there for all to see. Consumption of coal in power stations, which in 1978–79 was 89 million tonnes, fell dramatically to about 80 million tonnes in 1982–83.
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall continue for a short while.
The decline in car production has led to a decline in steel producion, which has led directly to a decline in power station and coking coal. This has all been the result of the Government's policy. At the end of the line are miners' jobs and the future of entire communities. The Government have no clear idea of where they are going with energy, as in other areas, beyond their short-term, balance-sheet approach.
What do the Government envisage when there is an increase in energy demand? Shall we have to import more coal when that happens, or use expensive oil to generate electricity and push up the price of electricity even higher? The report of the Select Committee on Energy has confirmed that the price of electricity is too high and that there should be a reduction in price instead of another increase. The Committee is of the view that a price reduction would assist both industry and low-income consumers.
§ Mr. Marlow
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. This is a very important point. The right hon. Gentleman has just said that he would like lower electricity prices. I am sure that we would all like lower electricity prices. The right hon. Gentleman is well informed on this issue and he is no doubt aware that the 20 most expensive pits in the country are producing coal at the cost of £89 a tonne. If the money that is invested in those pits were invested in new capacity, we would be able to get coal for electricity at below £20 a tonne. Will the right hon. Gentleman say at what cost he thinks it is worth mining coal?
§ Mr. Orme
I shall deal directly with uneconomic pits and the cost of closing pits as well as keeping them open. "Plan for Coal" did not overlook the fact that there might be some short-term difficulties. It provided:The Government will if necessary provide assistance to counteract the effect of any adverse fluctuations in demand … They will also, if necessary, be prepared to provide assistance in those cases where certain products may be essential in the national interest.However, the Government are trying to squeeze capacity to meet current consumption. They appear to be planning on the assumption that the world supply of coal will be plentiful forever. Even now Britain is almost entirely dependent on imported coking coal.
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall not give way. The Government are prepared to see over 20,000 serious losses this year alone. Such a programme breaks all the agreements that have been made during the past 10 years. It is designed to leave the coal in the ground and the miners idle above it. It is economic, financial and social folly of the worst sort. We know from our experience of the 1960s that it is economic folly to close pits before they are exhausted. I have already confirmed that that is so. Pits that are now economically viable could prove to be uneconomic tomorrow because of the Government's policy. The policy of the Government and the NCB is not confined to closing pits that have been worked out for it extends to pits which have many years of working life left in them.
"Plan for Coal" is based on investment in an expanding industry. It accepts that pits will close through exhaustion and possibly through exceptional mining difficulties, and no one denies that possibility. The plan states that an average loss of capacity of 3 million tonnes a year is likely through exhaustion, but that was never considered to be a target to strive for; it was an expectation and even a fear. The plan stressed the need for replacement capacity to compensate for exhaustion and to allow the industry to maintain growth. In the 1960s pits were closed when it was believed that our energy future was in oil. That wrong assumption has taught us that we must not close our options, and that means not closing unexhausted pits.
As the war in the Gulf escalates, are the 1960s to be repeated in an age of recession and high unemployment? 461 A crisis in oil is on the cards. As the stockbrokers Simon and Coates argue, if the Gulf were blocked and even if other OPEC producers made up half the shortfall, about 5 million barrels a day would be lost. Simon and Coates comment:In 1979–80 a 5 per cent. shortfall in supplies produced a 150 per cent. increase in official prices …This time a 5 million barrel a day shortage would represent almost 15 per cent. of OECD demand, or 10 per cent. of total world demand, and so heavy speculative pressure on the spot oil markets could quickly allow 'hawks' in the OPEC cartel to put upward pressure on official/contract prices.The Government have miscalculated the cost of their strategy, the mood of the miners and the effect on the economy.
The Prime Minister says that we cannot continue to subsidise miners to produce uneconomic coal, but if pits are closed, taxpayers will pay more, not less. We would have to replace lost capacity with imported coal from, for example, Australia, which might produce a saving for the NCB and CEGB, but the loss in taxes and the costs of unemployment and social security benefits of cutting 20,000 miners' jobs would more than wipe out that saving. In addition, the indirect effect on jobs in mining communities would be twice as great—doubling the cost to the Exchequer. The cost of lump-sum redundancies would be hundreds of million of pounds. Even the costs of the present dispute are so excessive that it would be cheaper to keep the miners in work.
The weekly cost to the Government of the coal dispute is about £70 million. The loss to the coal board, the additional expenses to the CEGB, the lost taxes from the striking miners, the revenue lost to British Rail, and the cost of the massive police operation present the Government with a serious economic crisis. That has already had an effect on the public sector borrowing requirement. In March production fell by 1.5 per cent. because of lost coal production. The position can only get worse as the effects are felt throughout the country. Even the City realises how dangerous the Government's strategy is—resulting in fluctuations on the stock exchange.
A further indicator of the severity of the dispute is seen in the latest balance of payments figures. The figures for April show the worst monthly deficit ever. The balance of trade in oil deteriorated by £400 million because the CEGB burned oil to conserve coal stocks. Last month the Government used our oil not to pay for unemployment, but to fight the miners.
Such facts usually move the Government into action, and they should do. The Government should realise that the cost of pit closures and redundancies will be most severe and long lasting for the individuals and communities involved. Coal mines are not like offices or factories. When they close the entire community closes with them. In Kent, Scotland, south Wales, the north-east, Lancashire and even the midlands the loss of income to miners' families will create ghost towns of their communities.
§ Mr. Orme
Many hon. Members wish to speak and therefore I shall not give way.
The closure of a pit causes unemployment for today's mineworkers and affects future generations. Unemployment is high, so there is little chance of alternative employment for those who are made redundant or for those entering the job market. What opportunities 462 will there be for young people to gain the necessary skills to become the mineworkers of the future? The policy of the Government and the NCB sentences thousands of miners to long-term unemployment, and their communities to death. That could be prevented if the Government returned to "Plan for Coal" and implemented its policies instead of talking about the level of investment.
Investment is high because expenditure on new coalfields, such as Selby and the Vale of Belvoir, is high. All hon. Members agree that that expenditure is necessary. If we subtract expenditure on new coalfields and major new workings, we find that investment has fallen by 30 per cent. since 1979. That decrease in modernisation and new equipment is the centre of the problem. If there had been investment in what are described as uneconomic pits, they would not be uneconomic.
Government investment in coalmining increases every year, but since 1979–80 all increased investment has been in new pits, which are not yet productive. Other investment has been cut substantially. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report said:The NCB's capital expenditure on new mine prospects, principally Selby, has increased as a proportion of total capital expenditure from 4% in 1976–77 to almost 21% in 1981–82".The report also envisages that capital expenditure on major projects at existing mines will decline from approximately 32 per cent. of total capital investment in 1981–82 to 12 per cent. by the end of the decade. Yet "Plan for Coal" specifically states that a main point of new investment is to extend the life of existing pits. The failure to upgrade the productivity of existing pits spells decline and disaster for many coalfields. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but they laugh at people who are losing their jobs and at whole communities that are being closed down.
§ Mr. Orme
To meet the needs of the future through expansion, investment of a higher order must be made in the great traditional coalfields as well as in new pits. I do not apologise for reiterating that.
In south Wales, where money has been put behind miners, all production records have been broken. Already there are shortages of Welsh coal such as anthracite, coking coal and prime domestic coal. The south Wales coalfield has a market for more than 9 million tonnes. Mr. MacGregor's plan will reduce production in that once great coalfield to less than 7 million tonnes, and then to less than 6 million tonnes.
The concentration of investment in new pits means that miners have been working with aging plant and equipment and have been unable to meet productivity increases targeted in "Plan for Coal". But the plan was based on a different distribution of investment. Where there has been investment in existing pits there have been significant productivity increases. Investment is supposed to be about growth, yet the Government invest millions in industry to cut it to the bone.
The "Plan for Coal" still holds good today. The Government must revert to its principles and its targets. The way forward for the coal industry can be based only on expansion, modernisation and investment. The Government should make positive moves to improve markets for coal and ensure that the industry expands. 463 They should consider capital reconstruction, seek to prevent the influx of coal from outside the United Kingdom, and plan conversion to coal-fired power stations instead of retaining expensive oil-burn capacity. That would be a long-term saving, which would benefit the coal industry and energy consumers. They should plan and construct new coal-fired stations instead of wanting the pressurised water reactor at Sizewell. They should be wholeheartedly committed to expenditure on new uses for coal, such as gasification and liquefaction. They should proceed rapidly with a programme for combined heat and power. They should introduce a massive extension of the boiler conversion scheme for industry.
Those are part and parcel of achieving wider markets for coal and a secure future for the industry. Investment in the nation's most important natural resource is not a waste of taxpayers' money either today or in the future. The expansion of the coal mining industry can only reap benefits for the entire country and ensure a future for the miners, the industry and for our ability to provide an energy source for the people of Britain for many generations to come.
In February 1981 the Prime Minister told us that it was important to secure a bright future for the coal industry and that the Government would honour "Plan for Coal". What does she say today? The Government have presented the industry not with a vision of growth, development and expansion, but with one of contraction and closure. We call on the Government today to accept their responsibilities as a party to "Plan for Coal", and to move towards a settlement of the dispute along the lines stated in our motion, beginning with the withdrawal of the closure programme. We call on the Government to stop their secret manipulations to score a political victory over the miners and to start acting in the interests of the nation. Britain needs ever tonne of coal and every miner to dig that coal. That is what this debate is about.
§ The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:`confirms that the future of the coal industry will depend on the industry's success in deploying its assets so as to keep coal competitive with other fuels; welcomes the action of the Government in providing more capital investment for the industry than any previous Government in order to achieve a successful future for the industry, noting that their investment of over £3.9 billion has not only far exceeded investment in the industry by the last Labour Government, but has substantially exceeded the scale of investment envisaged in the "Plan for Coal"; welcomes the steps taken by the National Coal Board and the Government to ensure that, in areas where a reduction in uneconomic capacity is being considered, miners affected will be treated more generously and with greater understanding than in the past, to the benefit of mining communities; notes that the early retirement and voluntary redundancy provisions are more generous than those of any other industry, and have helped create a situation in which the National Coal Board can assure any miner now employed that he will be able to continue working as a miner if he desires to do so; welcomes also the action of the National Coal Board to assist mining communities by creating a new enterprise company; and calls upon all those in the industry to co-operate to achieve the higher productivity essential to keep coal competitive and secure the future prosperity of the industry and its employees.'.464 The speech of the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) was remarkable for its total departure from a true analysis of the position. He said that it was important for the Government to stick to "Plan for Coal". If one decided to adhere to "Plan for Coal" and tried to bring into the coal industry what was envisaged by that document, as updated by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and by the previous Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, the only thing one could do would be to slash the investment programme and to close many more pits.
The Government have substantially exceeded the proposals on investment in "Plan for Coal". That was deplored by the right hon. Gentleman because the investment was in new pits, collieries and coal faces. During the past 20 years the work force in the industry has been reduced by 290,000–190,000 of those under 10 years of Labour Government and 100,000 under 10 years of Conservative Government. Labour Governments have a remarkable record of closing pits. Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously saying that they learnt their lesson from the 1960s and that when they came to office in 1974 and prepared "Plan for Coal" they decided that in future they would close only those pits that were completely exhausted?
§ Mr. Walker
That is the new definition, but it was not the definition used by the then right hon. Member for Chesterfield in the last year of the Labour Government when nine pits were closed, including one pit with two to three years' reserves of coal in it and another pit with 1.5 million tonnes of coal in it.
The first "Plan for Coal" states:However, like most extractive industries, the NCB 'has to run fast to stay still'. Over the period up to 1985 it appears that a broad average of some 3–4 million tons capacity a year is likely to be lost, mainly through exhaustion of mines and possibly also through exceptional mining difficulties".Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the NUM, the NCB and the then Department of Energy, under a Labour Secretary of State, calculated that 4 million tonnes of coal production would become completely exhausted during that period? Of course he is not. Unless all the Ministers at the Department of Energy, the NCB and the NUM were completely ignorant about the mining industry, they could not have meant the word "exhausted" to mean exhausted of all coal. They meant pits that were exhausted from the point of view of economic coal production.
If one wants evidence of that, the same document stated later:But inevitably some pits will have to close as their useful economic reserves of coal are depleted.Perhaps we should examine the Labour Government's final Green Paper on energy policy, prepared by the then right hon. Member for Chesterfield, in which the Labour Government refused to put a target on coal production. There was no target for coal production in any of the documents produced at the time. They put in its place this conclusion in the Green Paper:The coal industry has in its own hands the opportunity to shape its long-term future. It has the reserves and the technology to make a major contribution to meeting our long-term energy needs. How much reliance we shall be able to place on coal in future will depend on the industry's success in deploying those assets so as to keep coal competitive with other fuels.465 Are Labour Members now suggesting that the way to secure that is to say that no matter how uneconomic it is to produce coal from a pit, provided that there is still coal there, we should continue to produce it?
The right hon. Member for Salford, East tried to glide over the position on capital investment. The Labour party's view is simple. When, during five years, a Labour Government invested £1,472 million in the coal industry, that was building the coal industry to a great future; when during the next five years, the Tory Government invests £3,858 million, that is destroying the coal industry. It is a remarkable way to destroy an industry to have the most fabulous investment programme that that industry has known, and one that far exceeds that in "Plan for Coal". If we had kept to "Plan for Coal" by now we would have invested £6,700 million in the industry. However, as a result of large increases under Conservative Governments, we have already invested £7,600 million in the industry and, as a result of our acceleration of the capital investment programme, the investment that was envisaged by "Plan for Coal" to be completed by 1985 was completed by 1983.
Opposition Members have referred to comparisons with the coal industries of other countries. They should compare the capital investment programme of the Conservative Government with that of other European Governments. Last year Britain invested in the coal industry almost exactly twice the amount invested in the entire coal industry in the rest of the European Community and 2.5 times more than was invested in Germany. As for Socialist France——
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentleman may well say, "Ugh". We shall all be watching to see the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman follows their example, because we know that, as a leader, he is good at following but never good at leading.
In France, a Socialist Government came in on the policy of increasing coal production by 50 per cent. That same Socialist Government have announced that they will cut coal production by 50 per cent. This Government have delivered to a greater extent than was envisaged by "Plan for Coal". The Government have invested twice as much over the same length of time as the last Labour Government.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On the subject of comparisons, I point out that the other day the Secretary of State said in his statement that the industry is subsidised to the tune of £130 per week per miner. What would happen if, for instance, the miners were subsidised at the same rate as people such as farmers, like the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues? According to the Think Tank report of November 1983, if the miners were in the same position as the farmers, with each farmer receiving £20,000 per year, there would not be a single uneconomic pit in Britain. If miners received the amount of money that the Government are giving to Nissan—that is equivalent to £400,000 per job—they would be living in the lap of luxury. Those are the comparisons.
§ Mr. Walker
As this is an important day for the hon. Gentleman, I am pleased to say that, since the dispute started, more miners are working at Bolsover than before. Contrary to his earlier remarks, I am glad to say that 466 yesterday more than 300 miners were working there. I suggest that, if the miners compared the record on investment and pay under the Tories with the record under the Labour Government they would find a big difference.
§ Mr. Walker
Perhaps we have a situation—this is very interesting—in terms of miners' conditions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer, farmer."] Alas, I do not farm. That is just another inaccuracy.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has made his point. I hope that he will refrain from making any further comments from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Hickmet
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely staggering that the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) dare not answer this question: what will happen to the 6,000 miners whose jobs depend on Scunthorpe, if the steelworks there close and 10,000 steel workers are put out of work?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I appeal to hon. Members not to make speeches which may be made later if they are called. Interruptions only delay the proceedings and make it more difficult for the Chair to call hon. Members.
§ Mr. Walker
I point out also that the interpretation of the right hon. Member for Salford, East that the dispute was started by the Government or the Coal Board is a totally inaccurate presentation of what took place. The right hon. Gentleman knows what happened because he went along, as he said, and had a discussion with the chairman of the NCB. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the chairman explained to him that he had never laid down any programme of pit closures. He had never refused to have negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers.
It is suggested that the right hon. Gentleman persuaded both sides to have talks. I was delighted to note that, after the right hon. Gentleman had talks with both sides, for the first time in the dispute the National Union of Mineworkers agreed to have talks without preconditions. Previously, the NUM had always laid down the precondition that talks would take place only if the NCB said it would abandon all pit closures. The reality is that those talks have now taken place and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they will be continuing tomorrow. I hope that careful consideration will be given by both sides to the reality of the marketplace and the potential for increasing the production and consumption of coal.
As the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) knows, because he was at the meeting, at that first meeting the NCB presented to the NUM a substantial paper about marketing and the future marketing prospects for coal. He will know also that at that time the NUM wanted neither to question nor to discuss that matter. That is an important element in considering the future prosperity of the industry.
I believe that many miners who are working in pits in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, 467 Nottinghamshire and Lancashire are well aware that damage is being done to the industry's prospects by the present industrial action.
§ Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)
I intervene because the right hon. Gentleman mentioned my name in connection with a meeting. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the chairman of the NCB was about a quarter of an hour late in coming to the meeting? No one could find him in the building. When he was asked about his attitude to the industry, "Plan for Coal" and the 20,000 men in 20 pits, his answer was, "No comment." He practically walked out of the meeting.
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that, following a demand by the NUM that all proposals to close uneconomic pits should be withdrawn, the NCB chairman replied, "No comment." The hon. Gentleman knows full well also that the chairman of the NCB has not listed any pit closures. He has listed production targets for each area. He has made it clear that those were targets requested by the NUM. He is perfectly prepared to discuss those targets with the NUM.
Throughout the situation, the NCB has been willing to discuss all those points, without preconditions. Until about a week ago, the NUM imposed a precondition that the union would discuss the matter only if all proposals for future pit closures were withdrawn. In fact, that has not been done, and talks have started without preconditions. It is vitally important that the talks succeed.
§ Mr. Alan Rogers (Rhondda)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that Mr. Ian MacGregor's proposal for limiting overall production to certain areas is exactly the same as the quota system applied to farmers? Obviously, the same response would come from miners as would come from farmers, such as the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Walker
In its whole history, the coalmining industry has shown targets and budgets on an area basis. This is nothing new for any industry and nothing new for the coalmining industry. The Opposition talk about butter mountains, but the coal mountain, worth £2 billion, which has been built up during this period, has been another way in which we have endeavoured to see that investment in the industry continues.
I shall deal with other measures, of which there was no mention by the right hon. Gentleman. The first is pay. He pushed that aside, and said that it was not an issue, and that the overtime ban and the present dispute were not caused by the pay offer. I am pleased to hear that he now says that pay is not an issue, because the Government decided to see that the finances were available to make a good and reasonable pay offer to the miners. It has been available since last November, and compares rather dramatically with the Labour Government's record towards miners' pay. The previous Labour Government boasted enthusiastically about how they had looked after miners' welfare but for two successive years there was a substantial reduction in miners' pay in cash terms. In 1976, in cash terms, there was a reduction of £13 a week and in 1977 a reduction of £15 a week. If any Tory Government did that, the demand for strike action would be complete.
The Government are described as trying to destroy the coal industry but we have doubled the Labour party's 468 investment in it. Miners have better wages than they had under a Labour Government and, despite the industry's present difficulties, we are providing the finance to ensure that capital investment and good pay for miners continue. That is a record for which the Government make no apology. They should not be accused of destroying the coal industry.
The other area where there has been a dramatic change and which, again, was not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, is the manner in which the Government have provided the finance to see that, when uneconomic pits are closed in the interests of the industry's future, those affected by the closure of such pits will be treated far more generously than they were by the Labour Government.
During the period that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield was Secretary of State for Energy there were 17,000 voluntary redundancies. I bet that those 17,000 miners wish that they had available to them what is now available to those affected by uneconomic pit closures. In the last week of the Labour Government, a miner aged 55 who volunteered for early retirement would have received no capital sum, and £46 a week for three years. As a result of the changes that this Government have made he receives a capital payment of £7,800 and £60 a week guaranteed for five years. That is dramatically different from anything provided by the Labour party. Even more dramatic is the fact that if one of those 17,000 was aged under 50–49 for example—he would have received a capital sum of £1,450, whereas he will now receive £33,000.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
Does the Secretary of State accept that during the time about which he is talking many people over 55 were employed in the industry? How many are there now over 55? Where are they? Are they at pits which will close? The miner may take £30,000, but does the Secretary of State accept that a person aged 49 will not draw social security until the £30,000 has gone? Therefore, it is only advance social security.
§ Mr. Walker
As the hon. Gentleman knows, with the early retirement provisions the miner will also draw unemployment benefit. A typical married man will draw £104 a week. As a result of changes that the Government have agreed to finance, as the hon. Gentleman knows—he has considerable experience in the industry — any miner who wishes to continue to be a miner will be able to do so.
It is difficult to defend major, disruptive industrial action doing maximum damage to the industry, when the Government are financing the biggest investment programme in history and a pay offer that everyone agrees is reasonably good, and ensuring that not one miner will be made compulsorily redundant. That is a remarkable background against which to encourage people to strike. It is also a remarkable background against which anyone should support the use of so-called mass picketing of the type that we have seen during the dispute. We were pleased, at long last, having seen on television policemen being kicked as they attempted to rescue miners from the damage and injury done to them by other miners, to hear the Leader of the Opposition condemn such violence. It was long overdue and we hope he will maintain his position as he sees violence continue, unlike his position over a ballot about which he remained silent until he heard that Mr. Scargill was about to change the rules. He 469 assumed that, as Mr. Scargill was changing the rules, he might be having a ballot and therefore the Leader of the Opposition came out in favour of a ballot. Since then he has been completely silent on the issue.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
The Secretary of State and I have known each other for some considerable time in the House. If the Government's case is as perfect as he is trying to make out why has he not used his energy to bring the National Coal Board and the miners together in a much more meaningful way?
§ Mr. Walker
Because if we create the financial conditions in which the Coal Board can continue with by far the biggest capital investment programme envisaged by the country, even bigger than "Plan for Coal", give the coal board the finances to make a decent pay offer, and to ensure that not one miner is made redundant compulsorily, it is reasonable for us to expect that the coal board and the NUM should work out the detail and the manner in which the policy should be pursued. I am glad that, after a total reluctance to do this, the National Union of Mineworkers has at last decided to enter such talks, and obviously I hope that they will succeed.
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
Surely the test of threatened redundancies and alternative jobs is real, not theoretical? Before the present dispute started, Herrington pit in my area was under threat of closure, and it had been to the final appeal stage. I wrote to the director of the National Coal Board in the north-east, and asked what was going to happen to the men. He wrote to me towards the end of 1983, and said that he would not guarantee every miner under the age of 50 in that pit an alternative job in a long-life pit. I then had a meeting with the industrial relations man from the NCB. He, in front of lodge officials, confirmed that he could not guarantee men alternative jobs. If he could not guarantee jobs for a few hundred men, how are jobs going to be found for 20,000 men?
§ Mr. Walker
I will tell the hon. Gentleman, very simply. When that letter was written, there may well have been such a position, but, because of the terms of voluntary redundancy for the men aged 50 and over, and for the under-50s, the situation in 1984 is unlike that in 1983, when there may not have been people wanting to take early retirement to make way for people who wanted to continue to work. I am delighted to say, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear, that this Government decided to provide several hundred million pounds to make sure that the fears expressed in that letter would never come to reality. Therefore, we can say to any miner anywhere in the country that, if he wishes to continue to be a miner, he will be able to do so. That is a remarkable change.
The only opportunity for the industry is to take advantage of the good coal reserves that we have, and to develop them in an efficient and effective way. With the coal industries of other countries in western Europe in sharp decline, and, in some cases, virtually disappearing, there is a good opportunity for the industry in future. However, unlike what the Labour party practised when it was in power in the past, the new policy of the Labour party seems to be that, no matter how uneconomic the coal production in a pit, that pit will remain open, and therefore the money will not go into investing in pits for the future 470 and in existing pits with better equipment and better coal faces to provide better working conditions for miners, greater productivity and much better pay in the mining industry, to give an expanding and not a contracting industry. That is the option that the Opposition reject. This is a fundamental issue in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
Before the Secretary of State comes to the end of his speech, with this continual fairy tale, would he spare a couple of minutes to deal with one of the central issues in the debate that he has so far ignored, the extent to which the Prime Minister has been involved in manipulating the dispute for her own political ends? He has said nothing so far about this matter, which is deeply embarrassing for the Government. Does he believe that the statement made to the House by the Prime Minister to the effect that she was not interfering in the dispute can stand up in any way against the revelations from No. 10 that she has clearly been orchestrating the dispute from day one?
§ Mr. Walker
I can understand, particularly knowing the normal attitudes of the hon. Gentleman, that he would far prefer to play around with matters concerning a letter about railway pay than to face the basic issues affecting the coal industry. The Government have intervened. The Government intervened in the dispute to ensure that the capital investment programme continued, that money was available for a decent pay offer, and that not one miner would be made redundant. That is the intervention of this Government, which the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet supported, and which is, I believe, in the basic interests of the future of the mining industry.
§ Mr. Walker
Therefore, we are seeing a situation in which the industry is employing the best capital investment programme of any coal industry in Europe. It has potentially a good future. Opportunities of export and of coal conversion by industries in the country are being destroyed by the industrial action, which is obviously being supported by the Labour party.
I believe that, when the history of this period is written, it will be judged that, in this situation, a Conservative Government had put the resources behind the industry to give it a good future, and irresponsible industrial action had done damage to that future.
§ Mr. Walker
That is why I say that there is nothing in the amendment proposed by the Government with which the Labour party can disagree. It cannot deny that we are investing twice as much as the last Labour Government did, and more than under "Plan for Coal". It cannot deny that we have been generous to all those who have been adversely affected. It cannot deny that the only future for the industry is one involving high productivity and low-cost coal, with expanding markets. That is why I ask the House to support the amendment.
§ 5.5 pm
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
One of the purposes of the debate, in my judgment and, I believe, in the judgment of all Opposition Members, is that the debate should be used to try to seek an end to this grave industrial dispute in which the country is now caught. I had hoped that the House might hear a speech from the Secretary of 471 State to assist in that purpose. I can hardly say that that is the case. He has merely reiterated the figures and the claims that some Conservative Members have made throughout the period of the dispute. He said not a single word to suggest how we should get back to the negotiating table. He said a few kind words to my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), who has been discharging the responsibilities that the right hon. Gentleman and Ministers should have been seeking to discharge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members may laugh, but we want to get back to the negotiating table. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman does.
It is significant, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), that throughout his speech the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the developments of the last few days, which refer directly to the question of how we are to get a negotiation going, and whether the Prime Minister really wants a negotiation.
It is a disgrace that the Prime Minister has not come to the House to make a statement on this subject. She should have done so yesterday. She should have done so today. Eventually, she will have to come. It is no use anybody suggesting that these issues will not affect the future of the industry, the settlement of the dispute, and, indeed, the honour of the Government.
I quote from a newspaper that commented upon the situation this morning. It happens to be a newspaper that has given steadfast support to the Government, but it represents a part of the country that knows something about the coal industry. The Western Mail says:In this light, the Government was badly advised yesterday to try to deny that it had intervened in any public industry pay negotiations. Its claim that Ministers only kept in touch with heads of these industries to remind them of their overall cash limits is a blatantly inadequate reaction to what has been revealed in the 10 Downing Street document.It continues:What is more damaging, the document makes it clear that Mrs. Thatcher's repeated claims that the Government was not taking any direct intervention in the mining dispute can be regarded as true only by stretching the meaning of words beyond breaking point. Her private secretary's reference to the NCB pay offer undoubtedly points to intervention which was certain of its effect. If that is not 'direct intervention,' then the phrase on Mrs. Thatcher's tongue was so commodious as to be meaningless.In other words, on this important question, both inside the House and outside the House, the Prime Minister has misled the House and the country. On a series of occasions—I shall not weary the House by repeating them, but the House is familiar with them—the right hon. Lady, inside the House and outside the House, has said that there has been no intervention by the Government in the dispute, and that there will be no intervention in the dispute. We now have a clear indication that that is not the case but that the Prime Minister has intervened in the dispute.
I am not surprised that the Secretary of State did not refer to that. Probably he was not consulted on it. Possibly the only Minister who was consulted about that aspect of the right hon. Lady's policy was the Minister of State, Department of Employment — the chairman of the Conservative party — who has entered into the correspondence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] Yes, he should have been present for the debate.
Many of us protested at the time of his appointment because we thought it most invidious that a newly appointed and newly salaried chairman of the 472 Conservative party should be put into the extremely sensitive Department of Employment, which would surely be dealing with these matters, especially, as is now revealed, when that Department, which should have much wider responsibilities, has been dealing with the specific question of intervening to try to stop successful negotiations. That is what it has been doing, when from the beginning it should have intervened to prevent the dispute ever taking place.
I served at the Department of Employment for several years. [Interruption.]I do not know whether Conservative Members think that this is a matter of importance for the nation. We are concerned to get the dispute settled. I do not know whether they are. They are on trial in this debate; we want to see whether that is their aim.
At the Department of Employment we used to follow every potential dispute to see what were the possibilities of a dispute arising and to see, before one arose, whether we could avoid it becoming a dispute. Large numbers of disputes were avoided on that account. We set up ACAS partly to put that system on a wider basis. But never did the Department of Employment surrender its right and duty to look at each major dispute to see how it could be avoided.
This dispute could have been avoided in advance if the Government had been doing their duty instead of playing politics with the coal industry. They could have avoided it by taking seriously what was said by the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers. I have long experience in the House of what they have said on many subjects. I remember many of the arguments when closures were taking place under Labour Administrations before 1970. I opposed those closures because I came from a mining constituency and thought at that time that the NUM was not only looking after its own interests but had a wiser understanding of the interests of the nation at large than did many of the people who were supporting the oil and other industries.
I learnt from that, as did the Labour Government—[Interruption.] The laughter of Conservative Members, who know so little about this subject, will not be welcomed in the country. It will merely confirm what the Prime Minister has revealed in the documents, which is that she is much more concerned with the political battle than with getting a settlement of the dispute. We learnt from what happened over the years. That is why we produced "Plan for Coal" and why that plan is reiterated in our motion.
It is absurd for the Secretary of State — with a rigmarole that we have heard many times in recent weeks — to say that he is faithfully carrying out "Plan for Coal". A part of that plan managed to ease the problems of the industry in the 1970s. The right hon. Gentleman knows something about that because he was partly responsible for the industrial disputes that occurred in the 1970s, when he was a spokesman for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). In those years the Conservatives made a mess of things because they would not listen.
A central part of "Plan for Coal"—perhaps its most important feature—was that all questions affecting the future of the industry, including investment, closure programmes in general and individual closure programmes, should be settled not by diktat, not by decisions by one party, not by the NCB, not by the Government separately and, worst of all, not by some 473 conspiracy between the Government and the NCB. I see the right hon. Gentleman smirking. He should not smirk. The appointment of MacGregor to the job was part of the conspiracy. Anybody who goes to the steel areas of this country will be aware of what happened there, and for the right hon. Lady to appoint MacGregor to the NCB was a provocation and was part of the way in which the Conservatives abandoned the principles of "Plan for Coal". We must get back to them as speedily as possible—that is why our motion is right—not only to resolve the immediate dispute but to govern the industry in the years ahead. We must get back to discussions without preconceptions and——
§ Mr. Foot
It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say, "Give in." It is clear that Conservative Members who make such interruptions when we are discussing such important issues have no comprehension of the strength of feeling in the mining areas of Britain. They have no comprehension of how bitter is the feeling about the way in which the miners have been forced into this dispute. They have no comprehension—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)
It was quieter on the picket lines than it has been in the House for some of the debate. I am grateful for having been called to speak because we are discussing the country's greatest industry. It provides the material for a civilised society's most imperative need, energy. Originally, coal was used to give the human race one of its primary requirements, heat, but in the future, with our vast reserves, it will be used to replace the other carbon fuels which, as we know only too well, are finite.
Last year, when I made my maiden speech on what was then the Coal Industry Bill, I said that it was a great privilege and honour to be the Member for the country's largest mining constituency, Sherwood, with its 10 collieries, two area workshops and two area headquarters employing 60 per cent. of the Nottinghamshire coalfield's 35,000 employees.
Today, I am prouder than proud to be that Member. What politician, even in his most exaggerated dreams, could have predicted then what my constituents have had to endure in the last 13 weeks? They have suffered mass intimidation reminiscent of that meted out to the Jews in Germany in the 1930s. There have been threats and actual violence to innocent people, including children. Such threats could come only from the gutter.
Before families can go to bed, every curtain must be made secure with furniture to give protection from flying glass as a result of bricks being thrown through the windows. If I were to relate all the horrific crimes that have been committed in my constituency, our marathon Sitting of a fortnight ago would seem short; all this misery because they believe in democracy. It is ironic that this debate is being held on the anniversary of the landings which brought to an end the last Bohemian corporal who tried to destroy our freedom.
474 I speak for the entire work force of the industry in my constituency when I say that we are not interested in arguing about the past, about which party closed the most pits, or even about that disastrous period of inflation in 1977, when Arthur Scargill, in one of his saner moments, said that his men would have been £25 a week better off under the Tories. That was true then and is true today.
It is the future that matters to our miners. "Plan for Coal", the industry's bible, has this Government's complete commitment and more—some£1,400 million. Politicians have never been in the past, and will not be in the future, successful in running any industry. That is for management and that is what we support. Nottinghamshire's successful record did not happen by accident but by co-operation and commitment by everyone. The old attitude of "them and us" is dead. During this dispute, it has taken on a new meaning. "Them" are the political wreckers, and we know only too well who they are—the synthetic sick and the skivers who use the industry as a gravy train. If they never returned to their place of work, production would probably increase.
When I visit the collieries in my constituency, the last item on the agenda is a working lunch with the area director and local management, which includes all the union representatives, at which the investment programme for the future is endorsed. We talk about investing billions of pounds, but it is at the local pit that this is translated into reality, meaning jobs.
We hear that this dispute is about jobs for our children and grandchildren. Are those people saying that in the year 2020 we shall be sending more people down holes in the ground than we are now? What a Luddite vision! Have they not heard of technology, or are they so blinkered that they have not noticed the disappearance of the pit pony? Technological revolution has arrived in the industry, and its secure and prosperous future lies with the young techonocrats being recruited. If every miner's wife had one wish, it would not be for £1 million, nor would it even be wasted on the demise of Arthur Scargill. It would be that her children would never have to go down the pit to earn a living. The coal industry holds the key to that wish, with unlimited reserves mined at a cost that would give industry energy at a price that no competitor could match. This is the hope for 3.5 million unemployed.
Every day we hear of the sunrise industries. The greatest of these is the coal industry. It will be here when the others have gone, and anyone who disputes that is disregarding the scientific evidence. To replace the current oil requirements will require 105 million tonnes of coal, to replace gas will require 75 million tonnes and to replace the many other derivatives from oil, 25 million tonnes. That is the potential for the future. No miner need fear nuclear power. The present opportunities for new markets in this country and abroad are unlimited.
I can give a specific example. Nottingham university makes its own supply of energy and has recently converted three of its four oil boilers to coal at a total cost of £750,000. As the university does not fit into a recognised category, no grant was available. Nevertheless, the cost will be recovered in three years. It has left one oil boiler as insurance, and the cost of the premium is £80,000 a year. If only the university had a guarantee of a continuous supply of coal, it would convert the fourth boiler. There are many such examples all over Britain. To meet this demand, the Nottinghamshire miners are demanding 475 action through the ballot box, when every Scargill mouthpiece will be voted out of office, and then he who pays the piper will call the tune.
I remember only too well that, during my maiden speech, when I said that I was the first hon. Member for Sherwood, "Not for long" was the snide remark from the Opposition Benches. I have news for them. Some 15,000 Nottinghamshire miners have withdrawn the political levy and more will follow as soon as the forms are available. The salvation of the industry and the union is in the hands of the men themselves, supported by the necessary investment from the Government. Then we shall see our coal produced by men who put their country and their families before anyone's political philosophy.
I feel it my duty to inform the House of what every Nottinghamshire miner repeats as he goes through the lamproom on his way underground. He says, "I am glad I am British, I am glad I am free, but I wish I were a dog and Arthur a tree."
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
I am the new Member for Cynon Valley and will be the Member for a long time. My constituency was represented loyally and with distinction by loan Evans, who was its Member from 1974 until his untimely death earlier this year. Before that, he sat for the Birmingham division of Yardley from 1964–70. I know that the House would like to pay tribute to his great service to it. He was Front Bench spokesman on European and Community affairs. He held various posts, including PPS to several former Ministers. He served on the Council of Europe and his interest and expertise in foreign affairs is evident throughout his career. He was a director of the International Defence and Aid Fund, vice-president of the Parliamentarians for World Order and chairman of the parliamentary Labour party foreign affairs group. I believe that loan Evans would best like to be remembered for his passionate interest in peace, justice and human rights throughout the world, and as a Member of Parliament who was popular and respected. Wherever I went in my election campaign, the same phrase was used—"He was a good man".
My constituency is still very much a mining constituency. There are three pits in the valley, and miners also travel to work at 12 pits outside the valley. Thousands of jobs depend on coal, directly in the pits and in the Phurnacite smokeless fuel plant. Part of my constituency is bordered by the Brecon Beacons national park, and the spectacular scenery continues along the length of the valley. The great warmth and hospitality of its people was noted even by my Conservative opponent.
However, according to one of the bodies nominated by the Secretary of State for Wales, the Wales tourist board, my constituency does not even exist. In a new tourism report containing a map of the south Wales valleys, the Cynon valley does not even appear. Instead, the whole area, in which 67,000 people live, appears to have been replaced by a large forest. I realise that at one time, before the industrial revolution, a squirrel could jump from tree to tree from the Brecon Beacons to Cardiff. Are we to glean from this omission that the Government intend to continue their savage policy of de-industrialisation? Have 476 they a secret plan to reclaim the Cynon valley and extend the boundaries of the Brecon Beacons national park? If they have, they must think again.
The area is, of course, crippled by unemployment. Almost 19 per cent., or one in five people in the valley, have no work. The area has lost its special development area status, and even the CBI is protesting about the cuts in regional aid. The by-products of the Prime Minister's Victorian values—despoiled landscape and inadequate housing—abound. Half the houses in the valley were built before 1919, and the number without baths is three times the national average. Half the land of the valley still shows the scars left by the old coal owners.
One devastating health statistic in the valley is the rate of deaths from respiratory disease. In England and Wales as a whole, the rate is 50 per thousand, but in the Cynon valley it is almost 73 per thousand. We need proper compensation for those suffering from emphysema and chronic bronchitis as a result of working in dusty industries. It is a heartbreaking experience—I wish that Conservative Members could share it—to see a miner gasping for breath even while using an oxygen mask. Yet, because he has not been diagnosed as suffering from pneumoconiosis, he does not get a penny in compensation. That is more than wrong, it is cruel and unjust.
Those living in the Cynon valley today are the inheritors of a strong, radical tradition. One former Member of Parliament, Henry Richard, was known throughout the world as the apostle of peace. Keir Hardie, both a pacifist and a Socialist, once represented the same area. Aberdare, the main town in the constituency, was one of the two largest and most influential centres of literary and musical culture in Wales. The output in printing and publishing was prodigious. The brass bands and the choirs that are found throughout the valley today are part of our heritage, as is the Welsh language. It is not surprising that those who have struggled together in adversity are today once again struggling for the future of their communities.
I suppose that there must be some nice, concerned and intelligent Conservative Members, but they have not been obvious this afternoon. The point made by my hon. Friends was valid. Why is it right to subsidise food surpluses but not right to subsidise coal? But then, one quarter of the Tory candidates in the European elections are farmers. How can we expect any reform of the CAP when the leader of the European Tories is no less a person than Sir Henry Plumb?
Thousands of jobs in the Cynon valley depend on coal, either directly in the pits and the phurnacite plants or indirectly in the engineering workshops and factories. Hundreds of small businesses are already feeling the loss of the miners' custom. But the support given to the miners is unstinted and generous. The valley will ensure that the miners will not be starved back to work as they were in 1926—although it must be said that the Government are doing their utmost to do that. Miners and their families are being forced to live off friends, bags of potatoes and the odd £10 from relatives. They are having to cash their insurance policies, raise second mortgages, sell their cars and furniture and live on tick—but the determination to see it through is in no doubt at all.
Miners' wives are not only providing meals for those in need, they are on the picket lines. Those women feel that their communities, lives and families are under attack. The media image of working-class wives whose husbands 477 are on strike has, in the past, been one of urging them back to work and reviling them for not bringing home the pay packets. But the women today are shoulder to shoulder on the picket lines and there is a powerful new image, supportive and as determined as the men.
The miners are seen as fighting for us all. It is a symbolic fight, a fight against the two Britains — the haves and the have nots. It is a protest on behalf of a lost generation of young men and women who have never been able to find a job in the valleys of South Wales. Mining is still a dirty and dangerous industry, but we have been offered no alternative. We are not prepared to be bought off with the offers of fool's gold from Conservative Members this afternoon. The steel workers already rue the day that they took redundancy pay. The miners will not be in the same position.
We need investment in coal, not cuts and closures. South Wales is the only producer of anthracite in Britain. Britain is short of 1 million tonnes of anthracite a year, yet the NCB is closing anthracite mines in south Wales when it should be expanding them and opening new mines. Port Talbot steelworks is situated next to the largest untapped reserve of prime coking coal in western Europe. While the Government and the NCB aim to cut our coking coal pits and refuse to invest in the new mine at Margam, they import into Port Talbot 1 million tonnes a year of foreign coking coal.
Only south Wales and Durham produce those quality coals, yet they are precisely the two areas most discriminated against in new investment in major capital projects. Last year, while the pits of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire enjoyed new projects under construction to the value of £2.5 billion, South Wales and Durham were scratching along on less than £42 million—less than 2 per cent. of the Yorkshire and Nottingham totals. In other words, despite knowledge of massive proven reserves in untapped coalfields such as Margam, the Government are being guided by the same short-sighted advice that caused them to massacre the coal industry in the early 1960s, leaving the United Kingdom to the tender mercies of the international oil companies and OPEC.
The Government are engaged at this very moment in what amounts to nothing less than industrial sabotage. The country needs coal, and we can provide it. The NUM's case is not a plea for charity. Closing 74 pits and making 74,000 miners redundant — that is Mr. MacGregor's ultimate plan—would cost £45 billion. To keep them open, producing coal, would cost less than half that, with or without new investment. Success for the miners would preserve their jobs, for the benefit of us all. We want the investment, we want recruitment, we want new technology. There will be no compromise in south Wales.
§ Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)
I thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to follow the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). I take great pleasure in congratulating her on her maiden speech. We look forward to hearing many more well argued and presented speeches. I welcome her to the House.
I am pleased, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have decided to call Members of Parliament who do not necessarily represent coal mining areas. I am an Essex Member, but I was born and brought up in Nottinghamshire. I am very proud of my schoolfriends who work in the pits of my native county.
478 As an Essex Member, I am mindful that in my county 270 people have been arrested during the dispute, mainly at the ports and docks where there has been heavy picketing against imported coal. As a county, we have made a major contribution to the policing of the midlands coalfields. The present dispute thus effects the whole country because the cost of social security payments to support the miners' families is a burden on us all, the loss of equipment in neglected pits is a burden on the taxpayer and the cost of policing the coal mining areas is a burden on ratepayers, whether the policing is carried out by the local force or by forces from other areas. Moreover, communities throughout the country are greatly disturbed at the number of police taken away from their home areas and the possible decline of law and order as a result.
What is the dispute about? It has gone on for 14 weeks, but it is still not clear what it is about. It cannot be about pit closures, which have been going on for more than 10 years. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) admitted today that the Labour Government closed many pits in the 1960s. The dispute cannot be about redundancies, as 17,000 volunteers are prepared to accept the NCB's redundancy scheme. It is becoming increasingly clear that the National Union of Mineworkers and its president, Arthur Scargill, are using the NCB's need to balance demand and output as an excuse for a political strike.
There is a clear imbalance between output from the mines and demand in the country at large. Between 1979 and 1983 coal stocks have doubled from 29 million tonnes to 58 million tonnes. If those stocks are to be reduced, we must either increase demand or reduce output. Demand can be increased in a number of ways. We can try to export more coal. I have just returned from a visit to Israel where I saw a coal-fired power station. When I asked where the coal came from, I was told that it was from Poland and Australia. When I pointed out that this country produced very good coal and would like to sell some to Israel, I was told that its quality was well known but that it was far too expensive. We must reduce the cost of coal so that we can export more.
As Opposition Members have said, we also need to increase the number of coal-fired power stations. We need to spend more on research so that we can get gas and liquid fuels from coal and learn how to exploit fluidised bed combustion. All those developments require coal to be competitive in price and delivery from the coalfields to be reliable and not constantly subject to disruption as at present.
If we cannot increase demand as we would wish, output must be reduced as a short-term measure. We can do that by closing the uneconomic pits and in so doing reduce the average cost of coal. That will eventually stimulate new demand which can then be met by coal from the new pits and coalfields in which massive investment is now being made.
The Opposition contend that if we had stuck to the "Plan for Coal" we should not have the present problem. The 1974 "Plan for 'Coal" was based on three premises—first, an increase in investment; secondly, substantially improved productivity; thirdly, and perhaps most important, a constant rise in energy demand.
The promised investment took place. Between 1974 and 1979 the Labour Government invested £1.4 billion in the coal mining industry—the total envisaged in "Plan for Coal" for the period 1974 to 1984. Between 1979 and 479 1984, the Conservative Government have invested £3.3 billion and it is intended to invest a further £3 billion in the next four years. The investment promise in "Plan for Coal" has clearly been kept.
The plan was to increase productivity by 4 per cent. per annum, but it has increased by only 4.7 per cent. in the entire 10-year period under review.
The biggest disappointment, however, has been the lack of demand for energy nationally. In 1974, we expected total energy demand in this country to rise to 430 million tonnes coal equivalent, but it has risen to only 310 million tonnes coal equivalent. Just as total demand for energy has fallen, so has demand for coal, which is now 101 million tonnes—about 30 per cent. below the 135 million tonnes that was envisaged. That drop in demand has made it even more imperative to match output to demand. If by reducing output we can also reduce average costs and increase productivity, we can begin to stimulate increased demand for coal.
The present dispute, however, will not achieve that result. Many people wish to burn more coal in power stations and to use it in process and chemical industries, but they are now frightened to do so because confidence in the industry has fallen away. The dispute does nothing to help the industry. It puts at risk the market for coal and steel plants such as those at Llanwern and Ravenscraig. Moreover, even if the strike ends now, 15 pits are threatened with closure due to the danger of spontaneous combustion resulting from lack of maintenance, putting at risk 20,000 jobs and 10 million tonnes of coal capacity. The dispute also puts at risk some of the very communities that the strikers claim to be trying to protect.
The dispute also puts at risk democracy in this country. Massive numbers of union activists are behaving like bully boys in the midlands coalfields. Those activists are acting in that way without any national ballot and ignoring the decisions taken in the coal mining areas of the midlands.
The dispute puts at risk the lives and limbs not only of the police, but of the pickets themselves. As we know, 315 police have been injured as a result of paint stripper and ball bearings being thrown, trip wires across roads and other attempts to maim them. Sadly, too, one picket has been killed and many injured.
§ Dr. Clark
Why should I be less sad to hear that a picket has been hurt than to hear that a policeman has been hurt? I do not want anyone to be hurt. I want the dispute to be stopped.
The dispute also puts at risk the rule of law in this country. It is turning the midlands into an area similar to Northern Ireland in terms of the violence and the number of the police. Let us hope that we can curb the violence before it develops into riot and civil disobedience which is impossible to control. People outside the mining areas are beginning to fear that law and order will break down because 7,000 policemen are permanently drafted into the areas affected by the dispute. Police from 13 forces—7,000 of them—are there every day.
I hope that as a result of the dispute the Government will consider bringing forward legislation to ensure that when unions organise picketing on such a scale they will 480 be subject to financial penalties, unless the dispute is authorised by a ballot of the members of the union concerned.
I have itemised all the things that are put at risk by the dispute. Two things will not be put at risk: the strategy of the National Coal Board, which will be carried through despite the violence and intimidation in the midlands, and the life of the Government, who will see the dispute through and come out on top in the end.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
My first task is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on a most remarkable maiden speech. She spoke with great knowledge, passion and feeling, and represents an area where support for the miners is far greater than Conservative Members begin to understand. They will win the vote in the Division Lobbies tonight, but I venture to tell Conservative Members that they will be defeated by the National Union of Mineworkers and by the people who support it, for reasons that I shall give as briefly as I can.
The hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) referred to the police. What the hon. Gentleman said encourages me to read a letter that I have received from someone who was present at the Mansfield rally a few weeks ago. The writer says:I saw two men bedecked in N.U.M. stickers actually pick up a stone each and throw them at the police lines, inciting other miners to do the same, and as in all large rallies there is a hooligan element, some followed suit, as they did so, the first two turned round and announced that they were plain clothed police officers and tried to arrest one of the miners, but he escaped after intervention by other miners, and the officers were assaulted, not only did they deserve it, but it is they who should be charged with inciting a riot, not the miners.Conservative Members may not have seen what has really been happening. The press reports of what has been happening on the picket lines have completely left out of account the deliberate police provocation of miners. The coverage has been such that people have not realised what has been happening.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State has gone. One had to listen to his speech very carefully to understand that he has made three major changes from the policy of the "Plan for Coal". First, the production targets are to be cut from 130 million tonnes next year—rising to 170 million to 200 million tonnes at the end of the century—to less than 100 million tonnes, which is what MacGregor wants. To make a lot of speeches in the House and indulge in point-scoring while failing to tell the House that the Government are planning to cut the production of coal in Britain is totally misleading.
The second thing that Ministers have not yet been honest enought to admit — we may have to rely on another leak — is that they intend to sell off the profitable pits. That is why they are investing in Selby. They want to pour public money into Selby and some of the Nottinghamshire coalfields so that when they have beaten the NUM—as they think that they will, but they will not—they can sell off the pits into which they have poured public money. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] The hon. Gentleman says, "Rubbish." But it is Government policy to sell off the oil, BT, the airways, the railways and the pits. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to say, "Rubbish," let him say it to his own Front Bench.
The third point which was not made plain in the Secretary of State's speech—and I am not surprised 481 about that — was that the whole objective of the Government is to isolate and defeat the NUM. Everyone knows that throughout the time when Labour was in office there was the closest consultation between the NUM, the NCB and the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and I were all involved. The present Government have excluded the NUM from any meaningful discussions about the future of the industry.
That is why there was an immediate response at Cortonwood. When the Secretary of State says that there will be no compulsory redundancies, how can anyone believe him? Those who moved to Cortonwood were told that there would be five years' work there. They were then given five weeks' notice of the closure. The miners do not believe a word Ministers say, and they are absolutely right.
I turn to the economic argument. We produce the cheapest deep-mined coal in the world. If subsidies in Britain were the same as those in the Common Market, the NCB would make a profit of £2 billion a year. Agriculture is subsidised up to the hilt. Indeed, the dairy farmers—including all the dairy farmers in the House—are up in arms if their subsidy is temporarily and momentarily eroded by a Government which has poured money into uneconomic land. Candidly, I am in favour of keeping our land in use for food production, just as I am in favour of keeping our pits in use for future energy for the nation.
People talk about cheaper South African coal. What about the wages of the South African miners? Mr. Botha—that friend of Hitler who was invited to Chequers to celebrate, no doubt, the 40th anniversary of D-Day — represents a coal industry which will not allow unions to exist and pays the miners a pittance. Yet we are told that we must be competitive with that industry.
§ Mr. Benn
When the present Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), was in charge of the industry in 1973, he ordered Australian coal. When we were in power in 1974, the Australian coal arrived. It was so expensive that the Central Electricity Generating Board sold it at a loss to Electricity de France, because it was more expensive than British coal. I remember that very well.
We are told about the necessity to be economic. What about nuclear power? No private financier has ever put a penny into nuclear power. It has been subsidised from the beginning. The reason why a pressurised water reactor is to be built and why the Government, in advance of the Layfield inquiry, have authorised the spending of £200 million is that the Americans want the plutonium for their cruise missile warheads. It has now been admitted in the newspapers, after reports in Congress, that the American Government cannot persuade their own people to build nuclear power stations and are therefore relying on British plutonium to maintain their warheads.
Those are the realities of the economics. The costs of the closures are greater than the costs of investment, and the cost of the strike makes economic nonsense of the Government's case.
The other argument is that the Government's policy is a continuation of Labour policy. Our investment programme under the "Plan for Coal" was for 170 million to 200 million tonnes by the end of the century. The target 482 is now to be under 100 million tonnes. Every item of policy, including closures, was discussed and agreed by us with the NUM. As Secretary of State for Energy, I offered the NUM executive a veto on all closures in order to be sure that the NUM, the NCB and the Government would be able to agree to produce the coal.
There has been a great deal of hypocrisy about the Government not intervening. They are deeply involved. The police are preventing peaceful picketing. They have set up road blocks, introduced curfews in the villages and provoked on the picket lines. There have been cavalry charges against unarmed pickets. That is a disgrace to the British police, for which the Government are responsible. This afternoon I asked in the House about the use of troops, and the Leader of the House was very evasive. At the beginning of the dispute, I asked the Leader of the House whether the armed forces had been alerted, and he gave a categorical assurance that they had not. Now the Prime Minister has written to me. I had asked her whether the troops were involved. She used a very skilful phrase. She said that there has been no authorisation. She did not say that the troops were not being used, and she admitted that the army and the armed forces are supplying facilities and transport as part of a joint police and military operation. Either the Leader of the House or the Prime Minister was misleading the House.
The magistrates have come in and introduced bail conditions that amount to a sentence — a sort of exclusion zone—for those who have been convicted of nothing. Much has been made of the crudity of they way in which the Government have turned off every source of funds, including social security. to starve the miners back to work. They have "deemed" that the miners have been getting strike pay when in fact they have not. They have cut maternity grants and excluded from strike pay workers who have been only indirectly involved and were never employees of the NCB. One case that came to my attention was of the Government stopping a retired miner benefiting from the redundancy payment scheme because, for a short while, he was on the NCB's books before the strike began. The Government think that by starving the miners, or bribing them with thousands of pounds, the miners will respond.
§ Mr. Benn
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman and I shall tell him why. If he wanted to make a point, he should have demanded a debate before today.
The miners know that the large sums of money that are given to them are not real money. They are a lump sum payment for future social security benefits as they will not get those benefits until the redundancy pay has been spent. Neither the tightening of the screw through the Department of Health and Social Security nor the attempted bribery through redundancy pay will affect the miners.
The most remarkable thing that has occurred in the coalfields is that the miners are fighting the present policy and will go on doing so and the Government can do nothing whatever to stop them. Young miners know full well that if, at 29 or 30, they take the money that is offered, there will be no work for them, their children or their grandchildren in the areas in which they live. They will not accept it. It is a most vivid example of the non-nuclear defence strategy. When people are fighting for 483 something in which they believe, they will make many more sacrifices than the policemen waving their £600 a week pay slips at the picket lines to provoke the miners. The women are supporting the miners as has never happened before and many have been arrested.
I believe that the leadership of Arthur Scargill and the NUM executive has been brilliant throughout the dispute. The Secretary of State has returned. He lost his job as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by mishandling the miners and he will lose his job again because he is up against a National Union of Mineworkers that has been warning people for years about what the NCB and the Government want. I heard Arthur Scargill at the Durham miners' gala three or four years ago describing the hit list of pits. Even Joe Gormley, who is now in another place, denounced what he said, but every word that Arthur Scargill said was true. That is why miners support him. They are also getting enormous support——
§ Mr. Benn
Conservative Members destroyed trade unionism at Cheltenham without a ballot and intend to take away votes in metropolitan counties without a vote. They cannot suddenly pretend that they are in favour of a ballot in a national dispute. Eighty-seven per cent. of the miners are on strike and will remain on strike until the dispute ends. The financial and other support, such as food, that is being given to the miners and mining areas is on a scale of which there is no parallel in any industrial dispute in living memory. The money and the food are pouring in.
I have attended 10 or 20 meetings on the European elections and every one of them has concerned the miners. No one should think that when 14 June comes it will not be the miners who are in people's minds when they vote Labour against the Government and all that they stand for. I believe that the miners are getting such support because they are fighting for all of us. They are fighting to preserve local government, for public services and for the women at Greenham common in such a way as to attract the support of the overwhelming majority of the Labour movement.
The Government were wrong in 1926. They were wrong again in 1972 and capitulated. They were wrong in 1974 and were defeated. This miners' strike will send the Secretary of State into his final retirement because they are fighting for the country's future and its energy supplies, which are now threatened once again by the Gulf war and are not to be entrusted to the private oil companies. When the House divides, I do not doubt that it will carry the Government's amendment. However, the Government will not carry the support of the British people who are overwhelmingly behind the NUM in its struggle.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
It is with a sense of awe of this great Parliament and its history that I make my maiden speech in this debate. I shall try, as far as possible, to be non-controversial. I should like first to congratulate the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on her excellent maiden speech.
It had not been my original intention first to address the House until some time after my election, but the subject matter of the motion and the issues that it raises played a considerable part in my by-election campaign and I have 484 a significant number of constituents who are miners with mining families in mining communities. There are many others in the constituency of Stafford who are directly or indirectly affected by the motion. I spent much of my childhood in the years immediately after 1948 in a mining community near Sheffield and I saw at close quarters how they had to live.
Another compelling reason why I wish to speak now is to pay, in the House, a deeply felt personal tribute to my predecessor, Sir Hugh Fraser. He was a gallant and greatly respected Member of the House who was many times a Minister. He was greatly loved in the constituency of Stafford, which he represented with such distinction for 39 years. It is a great privilege to follow him in representing the constituency.
It was only yesterday that we commemorated the 40th anniversary of D-day. My father was killed in action outside Caen. For my part, it was the freedom which Sir Hugh and my father fought for in Normandy and after Arnhem at Pegasus, with many people from all walks of life, including the mining community, that underpins what we are debating today. It was not simply an abstract ideal of freedom for which they fought but the reality of freedom for ordinary men and women of the country and for the constituency of Stafford. I shall return to that point later.
My constituency comprises the town of Stafford and countryside largely towards the Shropshire border to the west and the Cheshire border to the north. Since 1983 and the boundary reviews, the constituency has included three wards of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which were substituted for the area of Stone. The town of Stafford, though tracing its origins to Roman times and earlier, is first readily identifiable as being settled in 913 during the wars against the Danes, when it became the county town. Ever since then it has held that position as the administrative and trading centre of the county.
In the 18th century it developed an important footwear industry which led to the modern inter-related industries of machinery, grindstones and adhesives, now represented by the famous companies of Dormans, Universal Grinding, Evode and Lotus Shoes. It has excellent communications; the railway first came to Stafford in 1837.
In 1900 Siemens became established in the town. In 1919 that company was acquired by English Electric, which merged with GEC in 1968. That company now employs about a quarter of the entire work force of Stafford. In 1926 British Reinforced Concrete moved into Stafford and Taylor Woodrow has a significant presence in the constituency. The country areas, with their beautiful hamlets and villages, provide a substantial agricultural industry, much of it in the dairy sector. It is a well balanced constituency of town and country, rich in heritage and medieval churches, with many new industries already deeply involved in the newly developing and fast expanding technologies such as computers.
In the public sector we have a new district hospital, officially opened only a few days ago by her royal highness the Duchess of Kent. We have the county police headquarters and the county and borough civic offices. We also have one of the largest maintenance store units for the RAF. A unique feature of the borough of Stafford is that James I was so impressed by the magnificence of its mace that he granted the burgesses special dispensation to carry it vertically.
485 Stafford first returned a Member of Parliament in 1258. Among my predecessors was Richard Sheridan, who represented Stafford for 26 years from 1780. Those were times of great international tension, revolution, great change, reform and extra-parliamentary agitation. It was at that time that the beginnings of real democracy in this country began to emerge, which culminated in the great Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867 and later, through which my great-grandfather's cousin, John Bright, with his friend Disraeli, brought the vote, and with it democracy, to the ordinary men and women of Britain.
Following Sheridan's maiden speech he asked the opinion of the parliamentary reporter, Woodfall, who replied, "Oratory is not in your line. You had better cleave to your literary pursuits." Disappointed Sheridan replied,It is in me, however, Woodfall, and by Heaven I will have it out",and that he did. I have much to learn both from him and from all those in the House. I can only promise that I shall do my best to follow the traditions, customs and conventions and to defend and protect the interests of the constituents of Stafford whom I have the honour to represent.
I said earlier that I would seek not to be controversial. I appreciate that that may be difficult in a debate on this subject. I only hope that what I am about to say about the mining dispute will be construed as being no more than an attempt to present a reasonable sense of perspective in the context of those freedoms to which I referred earlier and for which so many have fought and died. The main point that I wish to make is that we must uphold the freedom of people who choose to work and there must be no intimidation of those who make that choice.
The mining dispute is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for the miners themselves, for their families, their communities and the country. Miner has been set against miner. Violence has been substituted for democracy within the union and has disturbed the peace and good order of Britain. I have always believed, and said so in my campaign, that a national ballot should have been called. Then, at least, there would have been an opportunity for the consent of the miners to be properly sought one way or the other. In the midlands area of the NUM, which includes Staffordshire and my constituents, 73 per cent. of the miners there voted against a strike. I cannot believe that it is fair or right for their consent and their right to work to be subordinated to the wishes of the militants, or that those who wish to work should be intimidated from trying to do so.
While I was out canvassing in the by-election I had direct first-hand evidence of intimidation. I heard it from miners' wives and from miners themselves. Consent is the true foundation of our freedom and of our liberties. It is the essence of democracy in a union no less than in our Parliament. It is my duty and that of Parliament to uphold the right to that consent.
The denial of that consent is not the decision of the Government. The challenge which that denial represents is a threat to democracy. Nothing is more dangerous in a free society than the use of freedom in order to destroy it. The object of the law is to protect the reasonable use of freedom for all citizens and that object must be upheld. That law includes the right to belong to a union, the right to picket peacefully and the right to work.
I am reminded of the struggle for freedom in Poland—a country where the freedoms which we enjoy do not 486 exist. Lech Walesa is engaged in a completely different struggle from that of the miners' leaders here. He has been fighting for freedom for his workers without the freedom to do so. I ask most earnestly that the miners' leaders remember what he said of his union colleagues—"Our greatest danger is ourselves. We must learn restraint and patience or we will tear ourselves apart." While miner is set against miner, severe hardship is being inflicted on miners, on mining families and on communities, but not by the Government. We seek a prosperous, secure and expanding mining industry. That is our plan and our hope in the future.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
In following the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), it falls to me to pay him a compliment. When he was not referring to the more controversial elements—the mining dispute and so on—I compliment him on his humour. I am one of those who believe that that is worth a guinea a box, and if the hon. Gentleman develops it, it will hold him in good stead.
I also agree with the hon. Gentleman to some extent about his predecessor, Sir Hugh Fraser. When he stood for the leadership of the Tory party against the Prime Minister way back in 1976 after the other bloke made a mess of it, I was not altogether sure who he was. He came in from the outside. I was told that he was an anti-Marketeer and I thought that that was a bit of a start. So I did what little I could to encourage him. I did not dare to do that overtly because it would not have helped. I called him Mr. Quality Street because I thought that he might go down well in the Tory ranks.
Having dealt with that, let me get on with the more important aspect of the debate—the dispute. Nearly all the Labour Members who are in the Chamber today, and many who are not, have been calling for the debate for several weeks. But there was another fellow who was constantly calling for this debate. Not a week passed without a little bloke at the back of me shouting, "What about a coal debate, Mr. Speaker?" Where is he today? I refer to the leader of the Social Democratic party. He has been clamouring for a coal debate now for about two months and when we get it he goes missing. Where has he gone? I was told that he has gone to Portsmouth. I made some inquiries and asked what he was doing down there. I was told that he was either supporting the Social Democratic candidate or the Liberal candidate there. They have one of each. The media have not told us about that. It is very encouraging. There are two candidates. Sally Thomas is making a great show of things down there.
I want to restore the balance on intimidation. Only yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) came along with the information that two police agents provocateurs had gone to the community kitchen where food was being provided for the striking miners, the wives and all the rest. Who has been taking the food? Two coppers. They have been stealing. At Creswell in my area a lady, a pensioner, Mavis Seals, was out collecting one Friday night. She is in a wheelchair, having been on sticks since she was a young girl. She went out collecting for the miners who are on strike and when she came back her front door had been smashed in. The television cameras and the media do not care tuppence about Mavis Seal's smashed door. There are plenty of examples like that.
The same is true down in Kent today where Malcolm Pitt, a miners' leader, has been released after many days 487 in prison. Part of the Prime Minister's gestapo, the police, are down there filming all the pickets who have gone to try to pay a compliment to Malcolm Pitt on his release.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
Before my hon. Friend leaves that subject, will he tell the House about the Friday when we had the freedom ride in my constituency and I, as the local Member of Parliament, was detained for 40 minutes and not allowed to travel in my own constituency? I was not arrested but detained by the police until I threatened to go to the Speaker of the House about breach of privilege and then they released me.
§ Mr. Skinner
My hon. Friend is right. When I met him that night he had been stopped by the police at countless places in his constituency. We can all recall such instances.
In Stoke only the other day the buses that had brought down the Durham miners to picket were not allowed to stay. They were sent away and several score of Durham miners were left without transport 150 miles from home. That is the sort of carry-on that is taking place.
The Minister talked about investment. I wish he would tell the House the whole story about the National Coal Board accounts. According to the last figures that we got officially, out of the so-called subsidy to the NCB and to the miners, which is much less than is going to the farming fraternity, £366 million has to go on interest payments. The Minster calls that part of the subsidy to the coal board. There is £200 million for stocking charges. This is all part of the so-called subsidy.
When the Prime Minister has been bragging in the past about investment she has never said that in 1979 6,300 young men entered the mining industry. What are the figures now? As a result of all the glorious investment that the Prime Minister has talked about, there are fewer than 1,800 jobs for young men in the pits. Where is the investment going? As my hon. Friends have said, it is going on interest payments. They are like an albatross around the coal board's neck. The board has to get £2 million at evey pit in Britain before it starts making a profit. The first £2 million goes on interest charges. I have been told that, in the latest set of accounts, well over £400 million goes on interest charges before they turn a cobble of coal. I shall not speak on the subsidy because I have dealt with that before.
I want to turn to the Government's plans. The Secretary of State got a bit excited and was trembling and shouting. Among all the verbiage, I spotted something, as one or two other hon. Members did. He said three times that the coal board and the NUM are not engaged in talks with preconditions. He emphasised it once; he emphasised it twice. What he is really saying to the board, as we all know because we are on the victory trail, is that it can start afresh tomorrow. The miners that my hon. Friends and I have been marching with today know the result. That is why the Government panicked over the DHSS guidelines. Can hon. Members imagine a football manager, whose team is winning two-nil with five minutes to play, telling his players to kick the full backs' legs off and get sent off? That is what the guidelines mean. The Government have panicked. When they start taking bread out of the mouths of miners' kids, what does it mean?
Why have the Government panicked? It is partly because of the Gulf war. We have nowt to do with it. 488 Arthur Scargill has not been on the phone. I have not been on the phone. My hon. Friends have not been on the phone. They started it on their own on those Benches. I have started to listen to the world service to hear what is happening in the Gulf.
In 1926 when the miners went back to work they found that their shovels, hammers and picks had rotted and rusted. In 1972 my dad said to me, "It is a different story now. It is their tackle that is down the pit. It does not belong to us. It belongs to them. It belongs to the coal board and the insurance companies will have to pay up." All the stuff that is down the pits is deteriorating. Dowty Props and all the rest of the firms went running to Mr. MacGregor last week and said, "Hi, hold on, it is all right shouting and bawling about the strike, but it is hitting my pocket and my Caribbean holiday." So they are running for cover and the managers who are on £30,000 a year are beginning to say, "I am fighting for my job."
Some of the pits that are deteriorating are the ones they want to keep open. It is a bit of luck, but we need a bit of luck. The Prime Minister has had plenty during the last five years. The balance of payments is in a mess, £838 million in the red. That makes one feel a bit better. Interest rates have stopped going up for a while because of the economic summit and the Common Market election. They have rigged the money supply. All these problems are on one plate at one time.
No wonder the Government are in trouble. They have the world debt to think about as well. The Prime Minister has got people here to talk about bailing out Brazil, the bankers, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and all the rest. She is bailing out the farmers. After the Common Market election she will bail out the Common Market, but she cannot look after a British industry like coal mining. That shows where the Government's priorities lie.
What about the demands? Hon. Members will remember what happened when roads were blocked in Nottinghamshire. We read in the Daily Telegraph last week that farmers were blocking roads at Aberystwyth during the milk race. They blocked every main road with Land Rovers and tractors. There was a little piece on the front page of the newspaper. I made inquiries and sent a letter to the Home Secretary. Not a single arrest was made. That is the kind of double standard and hypocrisy that the Government practise to try to beat the miners, but they will not win, because we are on the victory trail.
We have never been more confident. The coal board conceded Cortonwood last week and Polmaise. We have a list as long as one's arm that it will have to concede before this is settled. We will call for the writing off of the debt. We will call upon the miners to make sure that when they put in a pay claim in November, when there is hardly any coal at the pit top, that claim will cover all the money that they have lost, every single penny. We shall get rid of the evil bonus scheme as well so that every miner is made the same and the bonus moneys are incorporated in the day wage. We shall get rid of the massive overtime that has been worked and then we shall demand a four-day week so that we can obtain more jobs for young miners in all mining constituencies. Before we go back to work—listen to this carefully — we shall demand that every miner who has been sacked by the NCB during the dispute is reinstated.
This will be a historic victory for the miners, make no mistake about that. It will change the entire industrial—economic power base of Britain. The rest of the working 489 class will remember the dispute. They will remember the sacrifices made by 150,000 miners and their families. We shall smash the myth of the Prime Minister's so-called industrial invincibility. The miners united will never be defeated.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
Before I deal with the inimitable rendering of Alice in Wonderland by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), it is my pleasant duty to be the first Conservative Member to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) on his fine maiden speech. His depth of knowledge of his constituency, his lucidity, and his humour will ensure that he has a receptive audience when he speaks in future and will ensure also that his constituents have a powerful voice in Parliament.
The debate has inevitably aroused strong passion and it is important to consider the basic principles which underlie the problems. Tragic and perilous events are taking place in Iraq and Iran and in the Gulf and they underline the basic lesson which we had to learn so painfully in the 1970s. That lesson taught us that we must have our own dependable sources of energy. The lesson will be rubbed home again and again in the years to come as the world's appetite for energy increases and as the reserves of oil begin to run out. It is a lesson that underlies "Plan for Coal" and the strategic importance of domestically produced coal to the British economy.
That was recognised in "Plan for Coal" in Sir Derek Ezra's preamble. Sir Derek made an equally important statement at the end of his preamble when he said:Of course, the size that we can make Britain's mining industry rests ultimately on our ability to remain competitive … That means improving our performance in tons and productivity.The two factors inevitably go hand in hand.
Four years later, in 1978, the then Labour Government echoed the sentiments expressed by Sir Derek Ezra when it produced a Green Paper that stated:How much reliance we shall be able to place on coal in the future will depend upon the industry's success in deploying those assets so as to keep coal competitive.The report identified four basic ingredients for a successful coal industry: willing customers, investment, productivity, and competitive prices.
The customers are there, or they were until the present industrial action started. More and more companies were thinking seriously of switching to coal as their source of energy. More British companies were looking to local pits to meet their needs. It is right that tribute should be paid to the marketing arm of the National Coal Board for its great success in the work which it has undertaken. As recently as March a major order was signed which would have brought about 50,000 tonnes of coal demand to pits in my constituency. Export markets are improving also. It is right to recognise the great skills of Mr. MacGregor in exploiting his wide knowledge of the world market for coal.
Investment is there also. The Government have invested many billions of pounds more than "Plan for Coal" demanded to make our coal industry truly effective. That is not the action of a Government who, as Labour Members suggest, are seeking to butcher the coal industry.
It is the productivity of the mining industry which has failed to live up to "Plan for Coal". We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) that 490 in the decade from 1972–73 the mining industry achieved an increase in productivity of only 4.7 per cent. when the target was 4 per cent. a year. It is only in the past year that the 4 per cent. increase in productivity has been achieved, when the Government's policies were beginning to bite.
§ Mr. Batiste
I shall give way later.
From the lack of productivity has come increasingly uncompetitive pricing with a crippling knock-on effect on the remainder of British industry. Steel, enginering and many other industries have suffered heavily from high electricity costs caused by the high cost of coal. Those of us who are committed to the development of coal must not be blind to the problems that high coal costs cause to other industries. To subsidise coal prices is not to provide the answer. Other industries will have to pay taxes to provide subsidy support for the coal industry. Productivity increases are the only realistic answer to energy problems.
It is a tragedy that the strike has come when the light was beginning to be visible at the end of the tunnel. In my constituency in west Yorkshire there are three pits. The circumstances facing the pits clearly illustrate many of the problems which have been discussed this afternoon Allerton Bywater is an older pit in which there has been heavy investment to give it access to large long-life reserves. It is a pit which serves industries in the area. It employs 1,000 and it is especially at risk when customers who seek to use their coal., weigh the prospects of dependability. The protracted strike that we are suffering will mean lost production for that pit, lost markets and. inevitably, less security for the future of the pit.
The two other pits in my constituency provide a contrast. These are the pits of Ledston Luck and Saville. Saville is in the process of closing, and Ledston Luck is scheduled for closure in two and a half years. Those who wish to remain in the coal industry will all have jobs in Selby as it develops or in other adjoining pits. The complaint that I receive from miners at Ledston Luck and Saville is that they are not being moved quickly enough to new pits such as Selby and not that their pits are being closed. In those circumstances, it is especially depressing to hear the dismissive comments of Labour Front Bench spokesmen about the investment in major new pits, which will be the life-blood of areas such as mine and of the mining industry as a whole.
All the investment is being put at risk because the investment which has already taken place is being dissipated.
§ Mr. Batiste
No, I shall not give way.
There is little advantage for a British industrial manager in subsituting the fanatical ranting of the Ayatollah Khomeini for that of Arthur Scargill. There is no advantage to my constituents to hear the hon. Member for Bolsover delight in and joke about the damage that is being caused to the fabric of their pits. They are the ones who will suffer and it is no laughing matter, although the hon. Member for Bolsover seems to think it is. Mr. Scargill has forced a strike by use of procedures that deny the honourable and democratic traditions of the National Union of Mineworkers.
All the miners who want to stay in the industry have been guaranteed a job, and those who volunteer for 491 redundancy are treated with unprecedented generosity. The Government are heavily committed to a massive investment programme. The fact that Mr. Scargill has forced a strike against that background demonstrates that his motives are political and not industrial. To do that when the vital customers on whom the industry depends for its future have alternatives to choose from is the height of folly. To do that when large numbers of miners will not follow the lemming-like path to suicide is to compound folly. To use intimidation and violence such as we have seen on the picket lines in Nottinghamshire, Orgreave and elsewhere is unacceptable in a democratic society and equally unacceptable to miners and trade unionists.
Equally deplorable are the hysterical attacks on the police by union leaders and leading members of the Labour party — I refrain from defining them as "leaders". We are fortunate to have a superb police force upon which we can rely. When the mass pickets go to Bolsover to intimidate miners who are returning to work, I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover will support the police while they protect his constituents.
The prospects for the mining industry are outstanding, despite its present problems, if saner and more rational counsels prevail. Miners must accept that increasing productivity is the solution and is as much to their advantage as it is to that of the country as a whole. They must repudiate the policy of violence and intimidation which has been the hallmark of the present leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers. That will restore the confidence on which the coal industry can be rebuilt.
§ Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)
I listened carefully to hon. Members' speeches and to the apparent expert mining knowledge of Conservative Members. I have had 40 years' experience in the mining industry almost to the day. Therefore I can speak from what we in the mining industry describe as the pit point of view. I worked in the mines before they were nationalised. I may not look so old, but I am. I started in 1944 and worked in what was regarded as one of the best private coal companies—even it was savage. The mining industry has developed, especially since nationalisation in 1947. I experienced the ups and downs of various Government policies and the various attitudes of the different chairmen and members of the National Coal Board. Therefore, I have first-hand knowledge from the receiving end. That gives me authority to speak on behalf of the miners, especially those in Northumberland, with whom I have spent much of my lifetime.
One of our major worries since 1944 had been about the uncertainty in the coal industry. We were never confident about our future and were never happy about pay levels. That culminated in the 1972 dispute and the Wilberforce report, which lead to a reasonable pay level.
During the 1974 dispute it was claimed, as it has been since then, that the NUM brought down the Government, I do not believe that. The Government capitulated to public opinion. Following the publication of "Plan for Coal" there was new enthusiasm and confidence in the mining industry.
Many Conservative Members will tend to think that miners are people who work underground for a time, come out again, but who do not think. That is not the case. They 492 study, read and understand matters put to them. They understood "Plan for Coal" and what it meant for the coal industry. They were confident in it until 1979, when they saw signs of what was to come. They saw manufacturing industry begin to collapse, the demand for fuel, both coal and electricity, being reduced, and their livelihoods and the opportunities for their children slipping away. Anxiety in the mining industry started about 1979 with the decline in manufacturing industry and the beginning of huge stockpiles of coal at power stations.
One of my responsibilities is to represent my constituents. In the mid-1950s we had about 22 mines in my constituency but now we have only one. That reminds me of the question often bandied about in the Chamber: what is an economic and what is an uneconomic pit? Who is responsible for the classification of pits? The coal mine in my constituency started in the 1800s. I worked there for 23 years, and when I visited it last year it was classified as uneconomic. Management had a question mark over its future. They questioned whether reserves would last for five or 10 years. The men who worked in the pit, and some members of junior management, said that the machinery on the coal-producing faces was not right for the job. They argued and argued, and finally someone either in London or in the local headquarters in the north-east conceded that the machines should be changed. This year the pit is economic because the machines were changed—not on the advice of senior management, but on the advice of the men who operate the machines.
We talk about mines closing because they are uneconomic but we tend to think that the miners are responsible for the present problems and furore. The general attitude of the media suggests that the miners are responsible for the problems in the coal industry. In my neighbouring constituency —I am sorry that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is not present — is the Lynemouth pit, which, before the boundary changes, was part of my constituency. Many of my constituents worked there. In 1966 senior management decided to operate a new mining practice. The colliery operates under the North sea for about four miles. That makes Tory Members prick up their ears because they did not realise that there are massive coal reserves under the North sea. The method of mining used supported the sea bed. They used a special technique which had been popular for many years for such conditions. In its wisdom the board decided to change the operation and started a longwall system. That resulted in broken coal being left in the works when the machinery moved on. Such conditions, which are well known in the industry, lead to spontaneous combustion and the possibility of a serious fire.
In 1966 the major part of the colliery had to be permanently flooded and coal reserves written off, not because the miners did not produce coal, not because of a lack of coal reserves or because the pit was unprofitable. The whole economic set-up was correct, but somebody decided to operate a system that was totally irrelevant to that mining operation. That resulted in our losing the colliery in 1966.
The board decided to put a tremendous amount of money into that mine to get it operational again. It combined it with Ellington colliery next door, although they were still separate operational units. The pit re-opened in 1968, but it closed completely in 1983. In 1965 it provided 2,000 jobs; at the beginning of this year there 493 were fewer than 400 workers salvaging material and carrying out maintenance. Not one miner in that pit was responsible for its closure, but it has gone—a colliery which the chairman of the coal board in 1964 said had 80 years of life in it. That colliery and the one next to it are now flooded, and many millions of tonnes of coal under the North sea cannot be excavated because of the board's decision at the time. The closure had nothing to do with the miners, but much to do with management, and 1,500 jobs have been lost that could have gone to the young people of my constituency.
Who in the present dispute has questioned the board about such matters? To my knowledge, no one has. We should remember that in the north-east most of the pits on the Northumberland and Durham coasts are under the North sea and depend upon the right operation and the right management.
There is an example in my constituency of what can be done to assist the mining industry. In the late 1960s, when Labour was in power, an aluminium smelting company applied to come to Britain. With Government encouragement, financial support and special arrangements, a smelter was established in my constituency, which is now one of the most profitable parts of that company's international operation.
The smelter is fuelled by coal; it has its own power station, which uses 1 million tonnes of coal a year. It provides 1,100 jobs and the workers are almost entirely ex-miners. The managing director told me—his claim is correct—that it probably supports another 5,000 jobs in the area. That is what the mining industry needs. We should have such operations in all mining areas. No one is hell-bent on keeping open pits that are exhausted or where the conditions are such that one could not expect people to work in them. We want a combination of the pits from which coal can be extracted being kept open together with the introduction of new industries to use that coal.
Although I have concentrated on my area, I am certain that the conditions there are reflected in Durham and in parts of Yorkshire. I was interested to read a document produced last year by the Nottinghamshire NUM, which talked in detail about pit closures in Nottingham. I am happy to see the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) back in the Chamber— [HON. MEMBERS: "He has been on television."] I hope that he donates his fee to the miners' cause. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Nottinghamshire. I understand the position there, because in the 1960s many miners from my area went to work there.
§ Mr. Thompson
I bet that the miners on strike in Nottinghamshire are those who came from my area and from Scotland, because they know what happened there and they know that it could be repeated in Nottinghamshire. The hon. Gentleman also talked —perhaps facetiously—about there being no pit ponies now. I assure him that one colliery in Northumberland has 45 pit ponies, and one pleasure I had before I left the industry was to see the pit ponies in their stalls. When I look across the Floor of the House I see that things have not changed much.
I have lost count of the number of chairmen of the Coal Board since 1947. There have been various degrees of criticism of those men and the job they did, but for most 494 of them there was some respect. Some were good, some bad and some indifferent, but none were like the man who is now in charge of the Coal Board. During our debates on the coal industry many Conservative Members have said that the miners should have a national ballot. There was a national ballot to elect the president of the NUM, who got a 70 per cent. majority. I would recommend that the NUM hold a national ballot to determine whether the miners have confidence in the chairman of the NCB.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) mentioned the tripartite arrangement among the Government, the NCB and the NUM. There is another tri-partite arrangement now among the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Energy and the chairman of the Coal Board. That arrangement is to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
I pay tribute to my near neighbour, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), and welcome him to the House. His was a noble speech, and we all look forward to hearing more from him. It is significant that he was elected with a substantial majority one year into a new Parliament. We have been entertained by that comic turn, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who had to make up for the appalling performance by the official spokesman for the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), who made one of the most incompetent speeches from the Labour Benches. However, the hon. Member for Bolsover brightened our day, and for that we should thank him.
This is about the third time that we have had a debate on the coal industry in this Parliament, but it is the first one in Opposition time. Apart from a squalid little debate that launched an attack on the police force, this debate represents a moment of despair for the Opposition on two counts. They are on a hiding to nothing, first, on "Plan for Coal", because, as we heard so eloquently and convincingly from speaker after speaker from the Conservative Benches, and as was so ably presented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Government have implemented "Plan for Coal" as far as it is their responsibility under that plan.
The only exception is output, which has shrunk. Are the Opposition seriously suggesting that output should be increased from 100 million tonnes to 135 million tonnes? What will we do with the stockpiles? Only today the president of the NUM said that he will never again allow stockpiles to be created. What will happen to that extra 35 million tonnes? Is it to be poured back down the pits to be pulled out again by young miners to allow them to become ill with pit diseases? Perhaps that is what the Opposition want.
As regards the argument about agricultural surpluses, the hon. Member for Bolsover will know that all Conservative Members are opposed to surpluses, but it is this Government who have taken the initiative in the EEC and brought about the first reduction in agricultural surpluses. That is a substantial achievement.
§ Mr. Howarth
I will say that to my dairy farmers as well.
495 Thanks to the arrangements that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made, the worst cases will be alleviated. This Government, as they always do, have tackled the problem. They have not flinched from difficult decisions.
The Government have kept their Bargain, as we have heard, with record investment. The previous Labour Government provided about £1,500 million. I refer to thousands of millions because billions are confusing. People might think that billions are small figures. Thousands of millions puts the matter in perspective. This Government invested £3,889 million of taxpayers' money between 1979 and 1984. A further £3,000 million is planned for the next three years.
At current prices, investment between 1974 and 1983 has totalled £7,150 million. That has exceeded the target of £6,500 million. On pit closures, "Plan for Coal" assumed a 3 million to 4 million tonnes reduction in capacity. Only 1 million to 2 million tonnes was achieved — only half the target. The Opposition are trying to make out "Plan for Coal" to be a bargain — almost a binding contract, except that they do not believe in binding contracts when it does not suit them.
There was supposed to be a 4 per cent. increase per annum in productivity but it was only 4.7 per cent. in 10 years. In 1983 miners' pay was some 26 per cent. above the average pay for manufacturing. On redundancy——
§ Mr. Howarth
The hon. Member for Bolsover should not make remarks like that. I intend to represent Cannock and Burntwood for many years. He can turn up in my constituency as many times as he likes to do a comic turn.
We have again received assurances that there are to be no compulsory redundancies. That must be evidence of a Government who understand the difficulties faced by mining communities. The redundancy payments for those who are prepared to accept them are massive. The terms offered to the miners are the envy of people in the private sector who have been made redundant. Opposition Members should ask their constituents who have been made redundant in the private sector.
The Government and the taxpayer have fulfilled their bargain. With the funding of £130 per man per week there is no doubt that the Government have done their bit. I shall give the Labour party some advice. They should become more concerned with the efficient use of public money.If the public sector as a whole had been less apparently self-serving, less complacent, and more efficient then the climate for cuts and privatisation would have been altogether far less favourable.Those were the words of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw).
That brings meneatly to the second reason why the debate is a disaster for the Opposition. It has been put off for 13 weeks. The Opposition have ducked the issue. They have not wanted a debate in their own time, but today we have it, and it represents the triumph of extremism over the Left. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) spoke of puppets on a string. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen listened they might learn something.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
My hon. Friend talks about a disaster for the Opposition. That was perhaps epitomised more than ever this afternoon by the arrest of 120 miners outside the House of Commons for trying to cause a riot.
§ Mr. Howarth
We have already heard that they were much encouraged by Opposition Members participating. Perhaps that was the reason. The Opposition Front Bench have become puppets on a string. It is a string pulled by one of the most offensive and dangerous demagogues that the country has seen for many a long year. Their dilatoriness and half-hearted attitude towards some of the most disgraceful scenes on the picket line has encouraged some of the worst excesses.
§ Mr. Howarth
I have not, and I shall say why. I do not believe that it is the job of responsible politicians to inflame difficult circumstances, and I have stayed away deliberately.
We have read today that paint stripper has been thrown at policemen, three of whom have suffered substantial burns. Those of my constituents who are miners — [Interruption.] That is why I am here. They, not a Labour Member, voted me here. The hon. Gentleman had better become used to the idea that the Conservative Benches represent more miners than do the Opposition Benches, and will continue to do so.
Those of my constituents who work at Littleton Colliery in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) have had bags of urine thrown at them. That kind of behaviour does not constitute peaceful picketing. The NUM does not want peaceful picketing; it wants the right to impose its views on those who disagree with it.
We have been subjected on television to pictures of many hundreds of our policemen, drawn from small communities, which are denuded of protection while the police have to maintain the Queen's peace. The police are not participating in an industrial dispute. They are there to uphold the rule of law, and hold the ring to allow the conflicting interests to be reconciled peacefully. I, and 99 per cent. of the people, believe that they have done a magnificent job.
I should like to pay tribute to those miners in my constituency and elsewhere who are still working. I have described some of the abuse to which they have been subjected. We are all familiar with some of the examples. They run a gauntlet every day. Just as Opposition Members suggest that we may find it hard to understand matters, I do not believe that they understand the feelings of those men as they approach in their coaches protected by our police to go through those picket lines manned by their own colleagues. They have to run the gauntlet and possibly suffered injury. The Opposition do not understand what it is like for the wives at home, perhaps hiding behind the curtain.
The good news is that every day more and more men are returning to work. I have not received a green card today because most of my constituents are at work and not down here. They are looking after their families and helping to build the future of a great industry.
About 70 per cent. of my constituents who work in the mines are back at work. It is interesting to note that that 497 figure reflects the way they voted when given the opportunity to vote. They have since been denied that opportunity.
Bitter resentment is felt by many miners throughout the country at the total and abject failure of the NUM to give them what they want — a national ballot. They might even vote—odd though that sounds to the Opposition—for a strike, simply to get it out of the way. They might have done so a few months ago, but I do not believe that they will now, because they feel very bitter about what has happened.
In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle), 20 pickets at the Lea Hall colliery came off the picket line and went in to work. We have all heard the story of how the pickets said to the chaps going in, "Just you wait until we get back." After the 20 pickets had gone underneath into the mines, the resentment was so bitter that they were sent to Coventry and came out again, despised by those colleagues who were working.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) said, 15,000 miners are contracting out of the political levy. What an indictment it is for the Labour party to see that those who are supposedly the backbone of its support are contracting out. The miners want nothing to do with the Labour party, so long as it is run by men such as those we see today—the extremists. Miners are even leaving the Labour party.
In my constituency, 250 miners at Littleton colliery signed a petition — not against the police and about police brutality but thanking the police for what they have done. I am told that the relationships between the striking pickets and the police are so good that many striking miners contributed to the police fund for WPC Fletcher, who was shot dead in London.
When the Opposition talk about getting around the table and a settlement, they are talking about appeasement. They want the coal board to give in, because they know that Arthur Scargill has no intention of discussing anything. He has said that pit closures are not up for discussion. Scargill knows that this is a political strike. He wants revolution. Every hon. Member has put himself before the people in the electorate, whether they are miners or not. We have gone around the streets putting ourselves before all our constituents. If Arthur Scargill wants to change the laws of the land, the way for him to do it is to put himself up for Parliament and take a seat, if he can win one.
For the sake of those who are abiding by the law, for the sake of those who are working and for the sake of democracy and the rule of law, I hope that the NCB and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not doubt that the people of Britain expect them to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that the NUM, led by Arthur Scargill, does not usurp the powers of the House. They expect them to stand firm in this battle.
§ Mr. Deputy Secretary (Mr. Paul Dean)
I remind the House that, at the beginning of the debate, Mr. Speaker asked for 10-minute speeches. Only one hon. Member so far has met that request. Hon. Members who speak for longer than 10 minutes will prevent other hon. Members, who have strong convictions and points to make, from being called.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
The House has just heard a bitter and vindictive speech from the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth), which has done nothing towards helping to resolve the dispute. The hon. Gentleman has spoken for the Conservative party on as narrow and as vindictive a political basis as possible. I shall pick up a few of his points.
In his opening comments, the hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), and that was his privilege. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Stafford and to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who also made a maiden speech. Both hon. Members were making maiden speeches and both deserve credit. The hon. Member for Stafford will have a difficult job in following Sir Hugh Fraser, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley will have a difficult time in following our friend, Joan Evans. I pay tribute to both hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood, when speaking about redundancy payments, showed that the Conservatives are good at discussing what they will do when people have lost their jobs. The Labour party wishes to preserve jobs. Instead of spending time talking about what they wish to do about people who are kicked out of their jobs, there should be more discussion about the preservation of jobs. The hon. Gentleman's speech vividly illustrated how the Conservative party views the strike when he spoke about "my dairy farmers". Labour Members like to speak about "our miners", whom we represent and who are suffering severely.
When Conservative Members speak of us ducking the issue of the mining strike, they should bear in mind that the Labour party has been demanding this debate. When they talk about my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) making a comic speech, they really mean that my hon. Friend's speech hit home hard. That is their way of trying to mock him and belittle a magnificent speech which, in may ways, demolished what the Conservatives say.
We have reached this disastrous state of affairs largely because of a series of miscalculations by the Government and the National Coal Board. They are directly responsible for the immense damage that has been done not only to the mining industry, but to the cohesiveness of our society. We are facing serious unrest. That unrest will percolate and spread if we are not careful. More provocative speeches such as that of the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood will make people angrier.
There is a catalogue of cardinal errors. The Government have regarded the miners as enemies to be beaten, and that is a major error. Because of the Government's obsession with anti-trade unionism, their failure to understand the legitimate anxieties of working men and women and their belief that force settles everything, the Government are largely responsible for the strike and its consequences. The Government can no longer hide by saying that the coal board is responsible, because, with the revelations of the past few days, the Government stand exposed as hypocritical and as lying in the face of all the facts. They should be ashamed of the way they have behaved in the House of Commons.
499 Sooner or later, the Prime Minister must stand at the Dispatch Box and say why she said to hon. Members that she is not interferring in the dispute. The right hon. Lady must answer to the House. The answer will be damaging to the Prime Minister and to the Government. Even more regrettably, it will be damaging to the House of Commons, because it will lower our standards. As Mr. Speaker keeps on reminding us, we are all hon. Members, and we should not tell lies in the House.
The second mistake is for the coal board and its chairman to adopt the 19th century overbearing attitude of saying, "This is what I am going to give you, take it or leave it, and if you don't like it, well, that's just too bad." That attitude has created more anxiety and anger among the miners than practically anything, apart from the Government's attitude.
The third mistake is for Ministers to assume that the miners can be starved out. The miners cannot be starved out. That is a basic error of judgment. Ministers should recognise that not everyone in society is motivated by pure profit and loss accounts. We do not believe in that kind of simple balance-sheet judgment. We have better values, and the miners have better values, than that. That is why the miners cannot be starved out by this or by any other Government.
A further error is for the Government to assume that they will weaken the resolve of the miners and the rest of the trade union movement. Earlier this week I was at the annual conference of my own trade union, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. David Basnett, the general secretary, spoke of the miners' strike. David Basnett suggested on Monday that the TUC should set up a fund, long overdue, to help the miners, and he asked for substantial support. I believe that that substantial support will be forthcoming.
The Government have also made the cardinal error of hitting the miners' families by pretending that they receive £15 a week, which we all know they do not receive. To pretend in that way, and to starve miners' wives and their children of £15, was disgraceful. It is what I can only call the height of hypocrisy for the Government to say that they were not intervening in the dispute, and then to clobber miners' wives in that fashion. Even lower than that, if one can go lower than that, is to take account of the pitiful gifts given to miners' wives, who have an abysmal living standard, and to reduce their social security payments because of those gifts. Do the Government in their hearts want to justify that kind of policy? Do they appreciate what is happening in this dispute, all dressed up with fancy phrases, lovely sentences and clichés by the Secretary of State, by Ministers and by some Conservative Back Benchers?
I have a great deal more to say, but I shall not say it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I respect your request for short speeches and I want my hon. Friends to be able to make their contributions.
The Government have divided the country: some are pro-miner, some are anti-miner. The dispute has caused grave divisions. The Government have divided the police force, because the police are fighting among themselves about how the should behave towards the miners. Some police spokesmen have said that they are unhappy about the way that the police are behaving under the Government. I wish to ask this question of the Minister 500 who will reply to the debate: did the police who stopped the miners in Stoke-on-Trent the other day observe the law, or did they break the law? If they observed the law, would the Minister please tell me under which law they were working? If they broke the law, would he please tell me what action is being taken against them? I am not saying that they broke the law; I merely ask.
What is needed now is a negotiated settlement—no preaching, no bulldozing, but a negotiated settlement, a little bit of good will, a little bit of understanding, a little bit of co-operation—but do not try to kick miners or anybody else around. Given good will, the dispute can be settled tomorrow.
§ Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
I must tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House, whether it likes it or not, that I speak on behalf of 10,000 men whose jobs depend upon the steelworks in Scunthorpe. I was elected as Member of Parliament for Glanford and Scunthorpe. I come to the House equipped with all the constitutional rights that our constitution gives us, and one of them is to speak for my constituents, whether the Opposition like it or not. In addition to the 10,000 jobs in my constituency that are dependent upon the steelworks in Scunthorpe, several hundred jobs are dependent upon the steelworks at Orgreave. Of the five major integrated steel plants, we are the only one to burn 100 per cent. British coal, 51,000 tonnes per week, to produce 60,000 tonnes of some of the finest quality steel in the world. Eleven pits supply us with that coal. Six of those pits are in Yorkshire—Silverwood, Binnington, Thurcroft, Hatfield, Grimethorpe and Treeton. In addition to the jobs that depend upon the steelworks in my constituency, 6,000 miners owe their jobs to Scunthorpe.
As we know, because we watch it day after day on television, Mr. Arthur Scargill is inciting his members to try to starve Scunthorpe of coke and coal. I ask the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I endeavoured to get him to give way to me when he opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition—what is the message from the Opposition Benches to my constituents? What has the right hon. Member for Salford, East to say to the steelworkers of Scunthorpe? What the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Salford, East and the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) have to say to the steelworkers of Scunthorpe?
§ Mr. Hickmet
I will give way to the right hon. Member for Salford, East, but not to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy).
At present, Mr. Scargill is trying to put those 10,000 men out of work. I hope that I do not need to tell hon. Members what will happen if we do not get coal and coke for those glass furnaces. My constituents will be sacrificed on the altar of the political ambitions of Mr. Arthur Scargill.
§ Mr. Hickmet
I will not give way to the hon. Member for Wentworth. I will give way to the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) or the right hon. Member for Salford, East to answer the question. They have ducked the question for 13 weeks. I do not expect an answer from 501 the Leader of the Opposition, because he has no guts, I cannot expect an answer from the right hon. Member for Salford, East for a similar reason, and I do not expect an answer from the hon. Member for Midlothian, because the question is unanswerable. If we do not get that coal, and if we do not get that coke—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I recall that a couple of days ago Mr. Speaker gave a ruling in the House that the way in which a particular word was used was to be taken in the context of its usage. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) referred to the Leader of the Opposition in a term that was clearly derogatory and intended to incite, which must surely be unparliamentary in its context. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to request the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the remark.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
I deprecate some of the aggressive language that has been used, but I would not say that it has been unparliamentary. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) should contribute to the debate. He is, of course, responsible for his own speech.
§ Mr. Hickmet
If we do not get the coal and coke that the steelworks require, the plant will become irreparably damaged. If the coke ovens at Scunthorpe are damaged, it may take 18 months to replace them, at vast capital cost. In addition, it will take at least four months to reline any blast furnaces that are damaged. One of our four blast furnaces was taken out on Monday due to an insufficient volume of coke. Other furnaces are in difficulty.
When that damage occurred, the NUM was asked urgently for further supplies of coke, but it refused to answer that request. On Wednesday, the coke run from Orgreave commenced. Hitherto, the coke and coal provided to us under an agreement between the ISTC and the NUM had been insufficient in quantity and quality. If coal and coke does not reach the steelworks and if, as a result, my constituents lose their jobs, there will be no alternative work for them. Alternative employment is not being offered to them. They will not receive large sums in redundancy payments. There will be no treatment for them similar to that being offered to the miners.
§ Mr. Hickmet
I will give way only to one of the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen, but I do not anticipate them endeavouring to rise.
I thank the police, on behalf of my constituents and the town of Scunthorpe, for saving the jobs of the steelworkers there. The scenes of violence on the picket lines have been a disgrace to the whole trade union movement, to the NUM and to the Labour party. On occasions, in an effort to prevent coke reaching Scunthorpe, as many as 6,000 pickets have tried to prevent the coal lorries from leaving the plant.
Police officers have been subject to attack by a hail of stones, bricks, smoke bombs, ball-bearings, nail-studded potatoes and paint stripper. A telegraph pole was uprooted and used as a battering ram against the police lines, a building was overturned and set on fire and officers have been hauled from the police line and beaten up. Meanwhile, the police have stood between the gates of Orgreave and the pickets so that the coke could go to Scunthorpe.
502 On the day when I visited Orgreave, two pickets had to be given the kiss of life by two police officers. They had sustained their injuries by bricks which had been thrown from the back of the picket line or by the crush of the pickets. While the kiss of life was being given, the hail of stones continued. Yet Opposition Members dare criticise the police for the use of horses. They were used to save pickets' lives.
§ Mr. Christopher Hawkins (High Peak)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an Opposition Member, from a sedentary position, to repeat the word "bastard" to the hon. Member who is addressing the House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If that were the case, it would certainly not be in order. However, I did not hear the word used. Let us proceed with the debate.
§ Mr. Hickmet
Many officers have been put in hospital with serious injuries, including broken bones and, in one case, a dislocated shoulder. On behalf of my constituents, I praise the police for their self-discipline, courage and restraint, and I congratulate their senior officers on the superb way in which they have acted. If the police had not been at Orgreave, my constituency would have been in a very difficult position indeed, for the jobs of my constituents could have been in jeopardy. It is as simple as that: the police have been standing between the NUM and my constituents' jobs.
I cannot see any justification for the attempt by the president of the NUM to close the steelworks in my constituency. Again, I invite the right hon. Member for Salford, East to say what justification he can offer for that. I think I see the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head in dissent, which must mean that he has no answer. In that case, will the hon. Member for Midlothian address himself to that question?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have reminded hon. Members of the need for speeches to be kept brief. The hon. Member is getting near to tedious repetition by challenging the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Hickmet
The attack by the president of the NUM on the steelworks of Scunthorpe may have come about because he needs a victory of some sort, and the closure of those works would have been such a victory. However, the ISTC has refused to join his suicide pact; a triple alliance is one thing but a suicide pact is another. The greatest issue between the ISTC and the BSC in my constituency is the use of BSC logos on private contractors' lorries, the reason being that the ISTC believes that its members are in danger should the NUM believe that they are driving those lorries.
The president of the NUM made it clear, both before and after the general election, that he would, if necessary, take to the streets. He declared:We will have to consider political strikes-political action as well as industrial action.He warned that if the Conservatives won the election there would be bloodshed in the streets. The general secretary of the TUC, speaking on 1 July of last year, condemned Arthur Scargill for his words and efforts and was reported as having said:Their brand of extra-parliamentary action was giving trade unions a bad name.503 The most remarkable aspect of this attack by the NUM leadership on my constituents and others has been the silence of the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues.
In view of the number of steel workers who have been made redundant in the last four years, I cannot represent a constituency such as mine without having sympathy for members of the NUM who fear for the future. But it is the duty of the Opposition and of the leadership of the NUM to guide their members, not to take them, as it were, to the barricades. I invite Opposition Members to search their consciences in considering whether the leadership of the NUM has helped its members one jot or tittle.
§ Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on her maiden speech, as I do the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). The choice of the discipline in which hon. Members can make their maiden speech is varied. To have selected a coal debate shows how very important such debates are to Back Benchers. I hope that both my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman will make many similar contributions in the future.
Many individuals have been arrested a number of miles away from pickets, sometimes when they have not been going to pickets. That leaves much to be desired. I know a number of people who have been arrested, who have pleaded not guilty. I shall not name them because their cases are coming up. They have been arrested in Yorkshire, where they live, accused of going to Nottinghamshire to picket. This must be worrying for anyone who believes in a free society, particularly when one thinks of what happened in other countries in the 1930s.
It is worrying that people can be arrested anywhere in the highways and byways, and taken to a gaol or police station. Members of the public say that such people may have been going to cause trouble. It is terrible that a large majority of the country is not unduly disturbed by this. That is frightening because the regime in Germany started like that. When the authorities there started taking people away, the people said that they must have deserved it. The authorities may have come and taken a trade unionist away. A Jew may have said that the trade unionist was probably going to cause trouble, and he may have been taken away himself next. What is going on in our country is terrible and frightening for anybody who believes in civil liberties.
We are fighting and arguing. In Hong Kong we are guaranteeing the freedom of the people to walk where they wish, but certain sections of our society are losing that right. That is frightening to any serious-minded person. That should be borne in mind, and the police should be accountable to someone. Section 413 in part of New Scotland Yard does not appear to be responsible to anyone, and chief constables do not know to whom they are responsible. The Home Secretary has said that he is not responsible for them. If a policeman is convicted of an unlawful act, one cannot object to the chief constable of the area in which the deed is commited. One has to go to the chief constable of the area to which the policeman belongs. The sooner that the Government examine this issue in detail, the better all round.
504 In "Plan for Coal" it was promised to increase new capacity to 42 million tonnes, and 9 million tonnes of that was to come from the extension of pits. The Government declare that they support "Plan for Coal". "Plan for Coal" envisaged closures running at 2 million tonnes over 10 years, with a total of 20 million tonnes. This is on target. As there has been 21 million tonnes loss of capacity through closures, if this is balanced against the 42 million tonnes of increased capacity, there should be an overall increased capacity of 21 million tonnes. However, that has not taken place. Therefore, the Government cannot say that they are implementing that part of "Plan for Coal".
In March 1982 there were 200 pits and in March 1983 there were 191, so we have lost nine pits in a year. Those are the figures that I have from the coal board. We are still losing more pits, and, although we are implementing our part of "Plan for Coal", there has not been the increase in capacity. Nowhere in "Plan for Coal" did it say that closures should take place to justify investment. It said that there would be closures of 2 million tonnes of capacity a year and that has been done. However, one cannot justify investment through "Plan for Coal" by the closure of uneconomic pits.
The EEC documents on coal published in 1979 asked Britain to produce more coal, and supported British coalfields. I asked the Prime Minister a question about this and she said that that meant that coal production should be increased in other areas but not in Britain. She said that that was not her intention, but it was the intention of "Plan for Coal" and that is important.
The Government and MacGregor want to get rid of 40,000 jobs and start by losing 21,000 in one year from uneconomic pits, but that in itself is uneconomic. There are no uneconomic pits—there are unprofitable ones. Andrew Glyn of The Guardian wrote an article called "Coal not dole, the best choice" a few days ago. In it, he pointed out clearly that all pits are economic because it would cost a lot more to close them. The Government have no right to close pits, as this will cost taxpayers more money, but that is what they intend to do.
If MacGregor gets rid of the 40,000 miners that he wants to get rid of, that will mean the loss of 75,000 jobs in total. It is the multiplier in reverse. It is wrong for the Government to do this, and they should drop this idea and keep the pits open. The dispute is about the Government's desire to close pits, and that will cost taxpayers' money. The coal should be used by the CEGB. How can it be burning oil at the ridiculous price that it is when there is coal? It should use our coal everywhere.
MacGregor is ruining the industry. The Government may desire that, but they should realise that he is also ruining the British economy. They must be bothered about that. It is vital to recognise that for each month of the strike electricity prices to industry will rise by almost 2 per cent. It will be more difficult for industry to export because unit costs will increase.
It is the absolute duty of the Government to ensure that the dispute is settled and that the lads and lasses in my constituency get back to work. It should be settled on reasonable terms, and that means a halt to pit closures. Common sense should prevail, and we should try to get the country back on its feet. We can do that only if all the mines work at full production.
The choice is the Government's. Either the country is ruined economically or it becomes more successful. The Government should grasp the nettle now.
§ Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)
I echo the remarks of many hon. Members and congratulate the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). It is never an easy task to come to the House and make a maiden speech, but both hon. Members made a fine contribution. No doubt we shall hear more from them in the coming years.
The consequences of the coal mining dispute extend far beyond the boundaries of those constituencies with close mining interests. Perhaps it is appropriate for me to draw attention to some of those consequences. I represent a constituency of traditional manufacturing industry. It is of great sadness to my constituency that, once again, the vital life-blood of industry — the supply of energy — is a political battlefield. Energy, above all things, is a subject that demands a consensus policy for the 21st century. The coal industry needs to lose its reputation as a repository of the most bitter and most cynically inspired class warfare of our times.
The largest single industry in my constituency is the paper industry, one of the seven major energy-intensive industries in the country. Energy costs can account for an average 18 per cent. of a mill's manufacturing costs, and in certain cases that proportion can rise as high as 30 to 35 per cent.
The effect of rises in energy costs, from whatever source, are clearly most important. During the past two years the town has lost three major manufacturing mills. The loss of those jobs, together with the jobs in the engineering firms that depend on the industry, now represent in numerical terms more than 50 per cent. of the total male unemployment in my constituency. The position of coal in the supply of electricity is clear to everyone, and with the best will in the world it is not possible to separate the link between the cost of coal, the cost of electricity and the cost of energy to our industry.
For years my constituents have been suffering from matters over which they have had no direct control. One of the likely consequences of the dispute is that, yet again, energy costs will rise. My constituents will be faced not with voluntary but with compulsory redundancies—and compulsory redundancy not cushioned by the generous terms in the package offered to the miners. It is about time that those who seek to exert pressure on manufacturing industry to support their own ends had a thought for the impact on the families who will suffer as a direct consequence of the increased energy costs that their action will bring about.
It would be easy for my constituents to resent the huge sums of money put into the mining industry, but they recognise— as I do—the need for a balanced energy policy that should include a bright future for coal. But they do resent the laughable suggestion that not enough money has gone into that industry. They would have been well content with a fraction of the investment put into the coal during the past five years. But they live in a world where the sales of their products are not protected, as the coal sales from the NCB to the CEGB are protected. If they cannot sell what they produce, they either make the appropriate changes in their business or they go out of business. They see no reason why the coal industry should not face the same economic facts of life.
506 "Plan for Coal" was considered by House of Lords in its report on the European Community. I want to quote from part 6, paragraph 97. I shall read it in full because it makes a number of points. It states:By March 1983, £4.5 billion had been invested in the coal industry compared with £3.2 billion (at comparable prices) envisaged in the Plan. While the NUM have been disappointed with the number of new pits sunk, a total of 160 investment projects of over £0.5 million had been completed, providing 17.5 million tonnes annual capacity. Over the same period, the number of collieries was cut from 259 to 191 … While investment had broadly kept pace with the plan, closures fell behind the projected figures and productivity had not improved at the expected rate.Paragraph 99 stated:The NCB is producing more coal that it can sell, much of it at costs far in excess of what can be realised from sales. Closure of the highest cost pits would remove over-capacity and would cut losses.Much is said in those two paragraphs.
The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) mentioned encouraging more sales for coal, but he failed to deal with the problem that the Government face which is to encourage industry to move from oil-fired to coal-fired boilers; a plan sabotaged by the miners' strike—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It has. From where will the new customers come? They are not there. All projections have disappeared under the strike.
I was disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman and also the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) did not make any reference to the problems of violence and intimidation. I doubt very much whether they could have done the same justice to that subject as did my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), who made by far the most exceptional contribution to the debate.
We abuse the energy industry at our peril. It is singularly abused by the perpetuation of the myth that some Opposition Members and some leaders of the mineworkers want to foster—that the coal industry has no friends on the Conservative Benches and that the nation has no interest in coal as a future energy source. It suits their political purpose to put that over, and to encourage others to believe it. It does not benefit the coal industry. The fact that it is palpably untrue is proved by the Government investment that was capably set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his speech. Many of my colleagues share his belief that an efficient, productive and useful coal industry has a worth and a benefit far beyond its own boundaries by the benefit of the country as a whole. The industry has friends on the Conservative Benches, but it is making it very difficult for our voices to be heard.
The smokescreen of political involvement that Opposition Members have sought to latch on to cannot. disguise the fact that the political content of this strike was engineered by the president of the NUM right from the start. He had failed on three previous occasions in his stated aim to seek to overturn an elected Government through the use of a miners' strike. In this dispute, he saw a final opportunity to do that. It is a disgrace that a moderate and decent work force should have been abused to such an extent for the political purposes of that president and his Marxist supporters.
No legislation produced by a Conservative Government could ever have produced the number of miners going through the picket lines that Arthur Scargill's immoderate leadership has produced. No legislation of a Conserative Government could have forced so many miners down the 507 pits to work at such a time. No legislation produced by a Conservative Government could ever have induced miners in Nottingham to doubt the wisdom of their membership of the NUM and to consider withdrawing their subscriptions from the Labour party. They are seeing through the man in the chauffeur-driven car searching for the £80,000 house, who manages to dribble his socialism out of the other side of his mouth and talk about the fall of capitalism while he enjoys its benefits.
The Opposition motion is an abject and inept attempt to disguise their embarrassment at their treatment of the coal industry over a period of years. It is an attempt to gloss over their record of pit closures and investment. It is an attempt to curry favour with the more extreme element of their party — with the extremists who hurl abuse even in the House of Commons at those hon. Members who have dared to criticise violence on the picket lines.
The Opposition motion is an attempt to paper over the yawning cracks in the labour movement which the parliamentary Labour party now represents. Above all, it is a forceful reminder of the craven attitude of deference to the bully boys, the retreat into economic unreality and the desire to avoid trouble at any cost which would be the hallmarks of any future Labour Administration.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)
I very much agree with the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) on two points. First, I join him in congratulating the hon. Members for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and for Stafford (Mr. Cash) on their maiden speeches and look forward to hearing more contributions of such a high standard from them. I join, too, in their tributes to their predecessors. I worked with loan Evans for many years. I knew his dedication and sincerity and the impact that he had on the House and his passing was a matter of great sadness. Sir Hugh Fraser, too, made a major and characteristic contribution to our debates and in his constituency. I knew him well and very much regret his passing.
It is clear to anyone who stands back and takes an independent view, as regrettably few hon. Members have done in today's debate, that there will be no great victory for anyone when the dispute ends, as eventually it must. There will be no victory for the miners, for the National Coal Board, for the Government or for the country because the stoppage in the industry will damage everyone, and it is in no one's interest that it should last a day longer than necessary.
That brings me to the second point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Bury, North. He said at the beginning of his speech, but unfortunately did not continue in the same vein, that the mining industry would benefit from a far greater consensus about its objectives and its position in the country. For too long, like so many of our industries, it has been a political football. That has been detrimental not just to the mining industry but to many other industries which depend on the energy industry.
First, I wish to consider the Government's position in the dispute. They clearly play an important role. I in no way support the criticisms of the Government expressed by some of the more raucous Opposition Members. Nevertheless, the Government's lack of a clear energy 508 policy has not helped the climate and the background against which the dispute has been debated and against which Mr. Scargill and his supporters have discussed these matters with their members. It is a scandal that in a country such as this there has been no comprehensive statement of Government energy policy since the Labour Government's Green Paper of 1978. Equally incredible is the fact that we are discussing future plans for the coal industry on the basis of a plan agreed in 1974 and drawn up before the impact of the first oil crisis in 1973 had hit the world, before the second oil crisis, before North sea oil came on stream and before the drop in demand in the 1970s. None of those factors has been taken into account except in occasional reviews. It is dreadful that there has been no truly co-ordinated plan for coal since the Labour Green Paper of 1978.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
Of course I realise that, but no good business simply makes a corporate plan and then just leaves it without reviewing and adjusting it each year to take account of new circumstances. The Government have failed by not getting round the table with the miners and the NCB to draw up a plan so that the miners could have confidence in the future of their industry. I appreciate that statements have been made by Ministers, but there has not been any agreement of the kind that was reached in 1974 on "Plan for Coal". Such an agreement would have provided encouragement for the miners and much less fertile territory for Mr. Scargill and his friends.
The second factor that has undermined the Government's position has been the horrific level of unemployment caused by their economic policies. The miners would not fear so much for their jobs if there were not 3.5 million people unemployed. That is one of the reasons why they are so worried about their position and about pit closures. The Government must take responsibility for the present economic circumstances. They keep telling us that the sun is shining around the corner and that the upturn is coming, but we merely see the dole queues getting longer. As our debates on industrial and economic policy have shown, all parts of the country are now suffering from the effects of the Government's economic policies. The upturn has not materialised and the miners, like everyone else, are worried about their job security. The Government are thus responsible for having created fertile territory for the militants in that way, too.
The revelations in the Daily Mirror in the past 48 hours have shown that the Government, despite their protestations to the contrary, are extremely involved in the public sector industrial relations scene. That comes as no surprise to me and I am somewhat amazed at some of the comments that have been made in the House. I should be very surprised and rather disappointed if Labour Ministers were not involved in the same kind of way when pay negotiations, disputes or other difficulties arose in the nationalised industries, the Civil Service, the teaching and nursing professions, and so on. Nevertheless, it is no use the Government complaining that they have a "hands off' attitude and no responsibility for what is happening in the industry when the contrary has been proved, and everyone knows it.
509 That brings me back to the necessity for the Government to acknowledge their responsibility for the industry and to get round the table with the people concerned to discuss the future of the industry with them and to reassure them about it.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley, Central)
Ministers not only have that responsibility. Secretly, they have accepted it. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Prime Minister has consistently misled the House, saying that she would have no truck whatever with the miners' dispute when, secretly, behind the scenes, she and some of her Cabinet colleagues —the Secretary of State for Energy must certainly have been aware of all that was going on—have formed an alliance and deliberately manipulated other nationalised industries and trade union disputes to ensure that the miners would be on their own so as to defeat them.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
The right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason) has put it much more clearly than I shall try to do. As he says, Ministers are involved. They should acknowledge their responsibility. They should get round the table with the miners and the NCB and reach an agreement on the future of the industry. In a moment, I shall consider the possible ways in which that could be done. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Government have accepted their responsibility.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
If I give way again, I shall prevent others from speaking.
The NCB chairman has not employed the most felicitous phrases or the most delicate handling of the dispute, and that has made the dispute even more rancorous and bitter than it would otherwise have been. His withdrawal from the discussions demonstrates that that was so. I am also critical of the coal board for not responding long before the dispute began to the suggestion by some of us—including my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who has made the point very vigorously—that some job creation agency should be established, equivalent to that in the steel industry which has been doing good work for years in the steel closure areas. That agency is called BSC (Industry) Ltd. We suggested that another agency should be set up, to be called NCB (Industry) Ltd. The coal board has belatedly accepted such a proposal. We understand that that proposal is on the table in the discussions now taking place. I hope that it will give the mining communities some reassurance, and I hope that the Government will act in partnership with the coal board as with the steel industry. I hope that the Minister can clarify that point tonight.
The Government have backed BSC (Industry) Ltd. in Consett, Hartlepool and Corby in helping to bring new jobs to areas devasted by closure. I hope that the Minister will tell us that the Government will back that initiative by the coal board.
The police have the difficult job of standing between the two sides. I travel through the country every week on my way to my constituency. No-one can take any joy in seeing the dreadful convoys of police going up and down the motorways, lights ablaze, looking like army convoys, as though we were in a state of emergency. Of course, in the areas where the so-called picketing is taking place, there is an emergency. But it is regrettable that in some 510 instances—the Dartford tunnel incident was the most widely criticised example — the police have stopped people well away from the pits. That is unacceptable in a free society, and an intolerable infringement of civil liberties.
However, I yield to no one in my praise of the police for the way in which they have handled a difficult situation involving thousands of pickets., particularly near the coke ovens but, more recently, in other parts of the country too. If 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 or 6,000 people mass together to carry out what is called picketing but is in fact intimidation, there will be trouble. The police cannot avoid that trouble. Inevitably, there will be accusations and counter-accusations. I hope that the sympathy of the House will be for the police. They are, in a sense, the innocent parties. They are doing the job for us. They should be supported in doing their difficult job.
Finally, who is the main actor in this dreadful dispute? Who are the main cast? I am pleased that there have been speeches from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who have both eloquently demonstrated to the House what the dispute is about. It is about the class warfare and the divisions in British society which have done damage over the decades to our political, social, industrial and economic system.
The House must face the fact that the dispute is about the desire of the leadership of the NUM to pursue their own political ends, using the miners as the poor bloody infantry in their battle. What the NUM leadership is doing is deplorable. The country owes a great deal to the miners and has a great admiration for their work. I share that admiration, and the sympathy for the miners evoked by the. dreadful nature of their work. To see them manipulated for party political ends, as they have recently been, is deplorable. I hope that the House will condemn the way in which the miners have been used.
Why did not the president and vice-president, and executive of the NUM call for a national ballot if they wanted national industrial action? It is a tradition of the NUM—one that has gained it a great deal of support—that there is a national ballot if industrial action is proposed. In this case, the reasons put forward for the dispute were obscure, and the rules and procedures were fiddled in a terrible way so that a national ballot should not take place.
The most deplorable aspect of what the leadership has done is that it has divided miner against miner, husband against wife, father against sort. It has divided the mining communities. I remember previous disputes in the steel industry and the Post Office. I know that the scars that are created will last for generations. What the leadership has done is a dreadful thing for a union to do to its own members. Mr. Scargill, Mr. McGahey and their supporters on the executive are causing strife and bitter divisions among their members.
§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
No, I must not.
There will be no victory in this dispute. The miners will become a less effective work force. They are damaging the future of their industry. As a result of this dispute, there will be uncertainty about the supply of coal. The memory of the dispute will remain with people for years, in 511 company after company and industry after industry. They will not use coal or transfer to coal. They will use alternative forms of energy.
The Government may well think on the same lines in considering, for instance, nuclear power. Inevitably—although the Minister will not admit it—the Department of Energy will ensure that there are alternatives to coal. In a sense, it would be irresponsible for the Government not to do so. My constituency is on Teesside. My whole family worked in the steel industry. As well as damaging their own jobs and their own industry—which they may do if they wish—the miners, through this action, are threatening to destroy permanently jobs in the steel industry. I do not think that some miners or people outside the steel communities realise how vulnerable the steel industry is to the stoppage of supplies from the mining industry. It took ages for Llanwern and other coke works to recover from the damage that the corporation suffered before. I could give chapter and verse from the words of the BSC chairman. The industry is suffering again now, and losing jobs as a result of losing markets. If damage is done to the coke ovens and the blast furnaces, works may face permanent closure. There are five steelmaking centres in the country. We probably need only three to cope with present demand. The position is being threatened by the coal industry. I hope that the dispute will be resolved quickly, for everybody's sake. There can be no victory. What is happening is damaging everybody.
The motion and the amendment to it do not reflect the true interests of the industry. They perpetuate the battles—the class and industrial battles between one side of the House and the other and one side of the industry and the other—that we have seen during the debate. It is extremely unfortunate that the procedures of the House do not allow third party motions to be considered and voted upon. We shall not have an opportunity to vote on the alliance amendment which advances our policy, which is distinct from those of the Conservative and Labour parties and which I believe will be supported by the vast majority of English people.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. Long speeches are made at the expense only of other Members' time.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) said. I agree with his point about a National Coal Board (Industry) Ltd. and the need for close relations between the NCB and local authorities to develop areas that have often hitherto been left devastated. I raised the matter with a Minister some weeks ago when I took him to my constituency where mines such as Snibston are closing.
One of the problems that arises when mines close, as has happened in my constituency, is that the local authority has been mine orientated for many years. It has tunnel vision of what the area requires. It might for many years have examined applications for planning permission and if the businesses concerned have not been mining orientated, permission has been refused. Those who face mine closures should examine what has happened for the 512 past 30 years, examine planning consents and see whether industry has been encouraged to the area concerned. Local authorities have been at fault in the past 30 years. Such local authorities are almost always Labour-controlled and they bear the responsibility for the failure of jobs in areas of pit closures. The Labour party certainly bears responsibility for that in my area as, until recently, it has been in control for a long time.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Stockton, South that we have witnessed a tragedy for Britain and mining areas. Communities have been set against each other. It is also a tragedy for the National Union of Mineworkers. It has prided itself on being one of the most democratic unions in the country. It is not widely known that its national ballots are conducted and supervised by the Electoral Reform Society. Until recently the union required a 55 per cent. majority to call a national strike. It is not always realised that a union is a federation and, as such, is fragile. The blatant gerrymandering of the rules makes that federation look all the more fragile. Knowing that it could not get a national majority for a strike, the NUM executive left it to each autonomous area, with its own rules, to make its own decision. Some decided to strike and some decided not to strike. In that regard, democracy prevailed. It was only when Arthur Scargill got to work — he is an avowed activist — and used the weapon of mass picketing to bully those people who democratically and by their union rules had elected to work that the trouble began. He has deliberately pitted miner against miner and autonomous union against autonomous union. He has flouted the rules and his people and is trying to impose his will by intimidation.
Why does Mr. Scargill do that? If the NUM had a good case for not closing old, uneconomic pits that turn in heavy annual losses, there would be no need to employ the tactics that I have described. The union could have argued its case before the Monopolies and Mergers Commission last year when it examined the NCB's costs, efficiency and production.
§ Mr. Ashby
No it did not. Twice the NUM was invited and twice it refused to go. Why? Most of the reasons have already been mentioned. It knew it did not have a case. It knew that the NCB had lost a great deal of money and that the Government were pouring money into the industry. It knew that the Government had paid some £1.11 billion to cover the deficit of the past decade and that £964 million of that was attributable to deep-mine pits. The union knows that, since 1979, the Government have poured more than £2 million into the industry each day as a measure of their long-term support for coal mining. The union knows that any sensible and rational person agrees that propping up pits that lose between £30 and £100 for every tonne of coal mined is a waste of money that could be better spent on newer and planned coalfields at Belvoir, Selby, north Warwickshire and north Oxfordshire. It is small wonder that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report called for closure of the worst loss-making pits. That report was endorsed by a Select Committee of the House.
It is clear that we are witnessing the bare-faced desire of Mr. Scargill to force the Government out by undemocratic means. If that is his wish, he must make his bid through the ballot box that he does not seem to like, 513 in 1988. However, we must wait until 2004 to get rid of him. We are witnessing a triumph of restraint by the vast majority of people, especially my constituents who have been faced with pickets that are led by a man who has refused to condemn violent mass picketing but rather preferred to call the police the trouble-making element. Such words strike a hollow chord in my constituents who were faced with rampaging pickets in early May who wrecked houses and shops. Those words also strike a hollow chord in my constituents who have had cars damaged and windows broken and who are being followed home, having their homes identified and their children intimidated.
My constituents have freely elected to work—in the absence of a national ballot. They hold that freedom most dear and they are extremely grateful for the support that they have had from the police. My area has suffered more than any other from pit closures. I tell Yorkshire miners who sit pretty in their cosy jobs, knowing full well that they have productive pits with plenty of coal, that they should see the positive and sensible way in which my constituents are dealing with the problem and go back to work in their own pits because they have never had it so good.
My constituency's message to the NUM is, either make out a case through a national ballot or shut up and leave us alone. My constituents are satisfied that the Government are looking after their best interests through generous redundancy terms and ensuring the long-term future of the industry through investment at Asfordby in the Vale of Belvoir. They know that the NUM does not have a case and that that is why Scargill will not dare call a ballot. We in Leicestershire will not give in to bullying or intimidation; nor should the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh)
At one stage the Secretary of State declared that it was fairly obvious that the NUM and the Labour party's energy team never really understood the realities of the "Plan for Coal".
First, let me declare my interest. I am a sponsored member of the NUM. I worked 30 years in the mining industry as an engineer. I was a consultant to the last president of the NUM, and I have been involved as a trade union official for the NUM for some 15 to 20 years.
Let me analyse the tone of the debate. My experience in the trade union movement, in industrial circles and as a parliamentarian, leads me to believe that the major blunder in this dispute was caused by the Government's inability to understand the issue at the beginning. It was not simply a question of long-drawn out negotiations on the wage norm. That took a secondary position for the miners and the NUM.
Ninety four per cent. of the employees of the NCB—including the management and the rank-and-file workers — opposed the appointment of Ian MacGregor as chairman of the NCB. A referendum of opinion within the industry said that it did not want him and did not need him. There were men of long, wise and prudent ability, expertise and technique within the industry who could well have done the job. It was perfectly clear to the miners that this was a deliberate and calculated appointment. I knew something about the chairman of the NCB before he came to Britain. He was known as the strip mining king in open-cast mining—the quick easy-to-get stuff, fast turnover, 514 into the wagon, onto the market and into the bank. Thai is his economic outlook. That is what the miners read into the situation and it has come true.
There was an abysmal failure by the NCB and the Government to see what was sacred within our industry — the tripartite agreement that worked for the Government in 1980 when it solved the dispute of the 22 pit closures—could have worked in the same way one this occasion. But that was never intended by the Prime: Minister and the Cabinet because they were out to tame: the miners once and for all. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), said, the Ridley report was printed and carried out from A to Z. The recent revelations have shown the trickery and deception that has been involved. Other unions have been manipulated to accept wage increases over and above the general entitlement to other employees throughout the British economy. There is no doubt that that was done deliberately. The Prime Minister does not see fit to be present in the House today. How does she reconcile the present situation with the fact that when dedicated pro-marketeers were working out Europe's future and the seven great industrial nations came together and produced the Venice declaration, she made a commitment to supply the European economy with between 130 million and 140 million tonnes of coal in 1989? Will the heads of state at the economic summit today be told that the Government are now deliberately reneging on that agreement into which they entered?
Whether in coal, oil or nuclear energy the average lead time is a decade. The indictment against the Government is that not one colliery has been sunk since the Government took office. Developments were planned under the previous Labour Government a decade ago. Even though the Government have had to find some capital, it would be untrue to say that they were responsible for that kind of foresight in planning a viable coal industry.
Where will we be in another decade if the energy scenario changes as quickly as it has in the past 20 years? The situation is hazardous and unpredictable. I see that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) has moved rapidly from his seat. There is always collusion in the House. That has been evident between the coal board, the Social Democratic party, the Conservative party and other elements here who claim to be democrats. It is almost impossible to plan an energy programme. That is why tripartite agreements and talks on review procedures, systematically and consistently taken, are the best option for a planned energy policy. That is what we need, not someone who is instructed by the Prime Minister to say that the industry simply needs a plan for the future based on narrow, short-term financial gain. That is wrong. Energy needs cannot be planned in that way.
For 25 to 30 years various leaders of the NUM, from the Sydney Fords of this world to the Will Paynters, the Arthur Homers and the Joneses of Yorkshire, right through to the present, have been telling the House and the country about the unpredictable situation in the middle east. We are seeing another demonstration of that. Instead of Opec I want Copec. I know that there will be a security of coal supplies for 300 years. The gas board is already saying that it has only 13 years of real deposits of North sea gas left. Oil prices have ricocheted backwards and forwards and have increased. The choice is security of supply against uneconomic pits. I know pits that were closed in 1970, 1971 and 1972. One was an £80 million project in my 515 constituency. If the productivity per miner on that project then were compared with costs today, that pit would be making £3 million a year. Pits can be top of the pops in financial terms and bottom of the league in the relegation zone six months later. It is as simple as that. The nature of the industry lends itself to that.
If we need a realistic, sensible and proven fuel policy we must be absolute in our endevours to ensure that we have a strong and viable mining industry with security for our lads in the pits. We need the necessary manpower training for the future. As sure as day follows night, the nation's security of supply must be protected.
For God's sake let no one say to the British miner that he is responsible today for the state of the industry. It is the Government's suicidal economic policies which have destroyed the electricity and gas markets by the savage destruction of our manufacturing industry. It is not their responsibility, and I refute the allegation made by certain hon. Members that it is because coal is uneconomic in terms of pricing that the industry is contracting. That is cant and hypocrisy and it deserves contempt.
§ Mr. Francis Maude (Warwickshire, North)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) in one of his rare emergences from his enforced silence. I am sorry that as someone with such a detailed background knowledge of the industry he chose to say so much that would bear so little detailed logical scrutiny.
One of the interesting things about the debate is the way in which the mining dispute has been talked about. It has been talked about as though it is a dispute between the miners and the National Coal Board. That is the first fallacy which is demonstrated throughout the midlands coalfield and particularly in the Warwickshire coalfield. The whole of the Warwickshire coalfield is contained in my constituency; there are four mines, all of which are working at nearly full capacity.
When Opposition Members talk about the miners and their determination to stand up to the coal board they should understand and recognise that in every coalfield, bar one, where the miners have been allowed the opportunity of a ballot to express their views they have decided to carry on working. Even in the pit at Bolsover, for which the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) spoke earlier today, the miners are working, having expressed their wish and determination to work.
Even at this stage the vast bulk of miners in the whole British coalfield wish to work. I call in aid facts to support that. First, no one can possibly doubt for a moment that if Mr. Scargill thought that the miners, given the chance, would vote to strike, he would already have called a ballot. He is far too smart an operator to have missed that opportunity if it was open to him. He knows that he has a very bad hand to play and that if he played that hand he would lose. That is why he has not called a ballot. That is why he has rejected the democratic approach and sought the approach of the thug and the bully boy.
I am not talking now just about picketing. We heard a lot about picketing in the early part of the dispute but, by and large, that problem has been resolved. There are not many miners who wish to go into the coal mine who are prevented now by picketing. For that, much praise is due 516 to the police who have played their hand very well. They have policed sensitively and carefully and have done their first duty, which is to uphold the law.
I am complaining not about picketing but about the intimidation and thuggery behind the scenes. There is an appalling degree of that in the Warwickshire coalfield. There have been stories reminiscent of Berlin in the 1930s of people being followed to their homes, of crosses being painted on the doors of miners who are working, of threats to them—"We will get you when it is all over." There are threats not just to the miners but to their wives. There are obscene and threatening phone calls, bricks thrown through windows, doors beaten down and paint thrown upon cats. One of my constituents has a son on a kidney machine. Threats were made to that miner that just because he was exercising his right to go to work the dialysis machine would be damaged.
§ Mr. Maude
It may have been done by people brought in by Mr. Scargill's thugs. It was the most appalling display. I know that the whole House will join me in condemning that appalling act. That is only one example of the history of intimidation and thuggery.
That is the only weapon Mr. Scargill had. He knows that it is not a miners' dispute. It is not even an NUM dispute; it is a Scargill dispute. If he had the cards in his hand to play he would have played them by now. However, he knows that this is the last throw of the dice for him. He has nothing more to play for after this.
The hon. Member for Leigh referred to the chairman of the coal board, Mr. MacGregor. He talked as though what was happening was something new that had not been done before. That is not so, as the hon. Member knows. Indeed, what Mr. MacGregor and the coal board proposed for this year was nothing more than was done last year. It is proposed that 20 pits should be closed and 20,000 jobs lost, not through compulsory redundancy by people being sacked but by voluntary redundancy with people willingly accepting generous redundancy payments to leave the industry.
When he opened the debate the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) referred to his three aims for the industry—expansion, modernisation and investment. I want to deal with those in reverse order. Since the "Plan for Coal", the agreed amount of investment by the Government in the industry has been exceeded. At today's prices it has been exceeded by £650 million. The bulk of that has been since 1979 in the currency of this Government. Therefore, let no one complain about lack of investment in the industry. Investment there has been.
The complaints one hears are not that there has been too little investment but, if anything, too much. The hon. Member for Leigh criticised the Government for not having invested in new pits. He asked how much of the money had gone into new pits and how many pits had been sunk since 1979. It is interesting to compare his remarks with those of many of his right hon. and hon. Friends who complained that too much money had been put into new 517 pits and not enough into existing pits. There is a little sorting out to be done by the Opposition before they start criticising us for lack of investment in the industry.
The second aim of the right hon. Member for Salford, East was modernisation. How we need that in the industry. The last thing I want, as a Member representing a mining constituency, is for my constituents to have to continue to serve in Victorian and archaic conditions. We want a modernised industry.
Expansion was the third aim of the right hon. Member. Again, how we should like to see that. He wants expansion of the industry by digging coal that no one wants to buy. One begins to wonder when the lesson will be learnt that there is only a point in digging coal out of the ground, in manufacturing goods or in providing any sort of goods or service when somebody wants to buy the product. It is worse than useless to manufacture a product or to dig it out of the ground when all that will be done with it is to allow it to sit on the surface. That is destructive. I want to see properly organised expansion, expansion through demand. There is only one way to get a demand for coal—by providing the coal at a price at which people want to buy it. If any Opposition Member really believes that a massive disruption of supplies is doing a service to the industry to win markets and customers he wants his head testing. I want to see expansion. I want a Government who are committed to the expansion of the industry, but that must be expansion through investment in profitable and productive coalfields. Madness lies in any other way.
Labour Members have failed to recognise that the miners agree generally with the Government. They do not agree with the arguments that have been advanced by Labour Members. By and large, they agree that real security for the future lies in developing the profitable and productive coalfields. It is perhaps a forlorn hope, but when we divide this evening I hope that Labour Members will reflect on the wording of the Opposition's motion. I believe that the motion would take us backwards, and I want to see the industry go forward. I know that it has a future, and I want to see it going forward as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
I shall not take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude), as you have asked us to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I crave the indulgence of the House briefly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on her maiden speech. My hon. Friend succeeded Joan Evans, who was a good friend of mine. His death was a sad loss to the Co-operative party. I congratulate my hon. Friend on being elected to this place. I say that with no disrepect to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), who also made his maiden speech earlier this evening.
We meet today in rather peculiar circumstances. In effect, we are the shareholders of the mining industry, for we represent the nation. The speeches of some Conservative Members have suggested that we are discussing a clapped-out industry that has no future— [Interruption.] Some Conservative Members have only recently entered the Chamber, but they are bellyaching already. I agree with the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North that the industry has a future, but we are the 518 custodians of that future. The Secretary of State has a responsibility to intervene over Mr. MacGregor as the representative of the executive, as it were.
The Opposition do not complain about intervention in industry, but we are entitled to question the nature and purpose of intervention. The most disastrous intervention in the mining industry was the appointment of Mr. Ian MacGregor. Anyone who thinks differently from that has not met him or has not been involved with him in an argument and discussion about a pit in his constituency. I have met Mr. MacGregor twice to discuss a pit in my constituency with my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill).
When meetings of that sort take place, Mr. MacGregor says, "Listen, boy, we are running a decentralised industry here and it is management-down-the-line responsibility."' When he is questioned further about the effect of that form of management on Bogside he washes his hands of the matter and says, "That is a matter for the management and the National Union of Mineworkers and not for politicians." I have a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), which is graphic and significant when set against the reports that have appeared in the press over recent days. In his letter the Minister states:It would be quite inappropriate for the Government to intervene in these arrangements.However, we know that the Government have intervened in the dispute. The Government's backstairs intervention had an effect on the attitude of management right down the line. Management in various areas is trying to establish a position whereby it will teach the men a lesson. That is reflected in threatened pit closures and how management chooses to colour the situation, real or imagined, in the pits.
I have checked on pits in my constituency that are supposed to be under threat because they are dangerous. According to the press, the Cornrie pit is in danger of being closed. I have spoken to my NUM colleagues and they have said, "Dick, the pit is sweet." Miners will understand what is meant by that term. I have checked on the Castlehill pit and the same description applies. The same applies to Solsgirth pit. The attitude of management is to teach the men a lesson and the Secretary of State has a responsibility to bring that to a halt. That attitude will not produce cohesion in the industry.
We are fighting for the survival of communities, and that has been graphically illustrated in the demonstration in London today. I do not expect Conservative Members to appreciate that, but I expect them to try to understand that if a pit closes, especially in the present economic climate, there is no other work.
§ Mr. Douglas
No, I shall not give way, as time is limited.
If a pit closes, there is no other work. Some of the young men I met when I was elected in 1979 have not worked since that general election. We are producing a generation whose members will be unemployed for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister does not appreciate that.
Mining communities are close knit and it is wrong for Conservative Members to say that Labour Members are prepared to condone violence on the part of miners. Our people have a vested interest in good order, especially in close-knit communities. The Scottish experience is that 519 there is concerted action by the police. I witnessed scenes on the streets of London today that I did not imagine would ever take place. I saw a police officer kick a lady. Why was she kicked? She was kicked because she was collecting for the miners. The officer said, "No street collections here." I would not have believed that that could happen.
The Secretary of State has a responsibility to intervene. What are his intentions? Does he intend to leave the dispute to management and the NUM and to let them try to resolve it, or will he intervene in the national interest? That is a straight question and I hope that it will receive a straight answer when the Minister replies.
§ Mr. Douglas
No, I shall not give way. I gave an undertaking that I would be brief and I want to keep to it. I have asked the Secretary of State a straight question. How does he and the Government see the national interest in terms of resolving the dispute?
§ Mr. Peter Walker
We have intervened by providing the money to introduce the largest ever capital investment programme in the mining industry, a decent pay agreement and not one compulsory redundancy. That is a considerable intervention.
§ Mr. Douglas
The Secretary of State should know better than to think that that will bring about a resolution of the dispute. To play the same record from the Government Front Bench, or to allow the needle to become stuck in the same groove and to express the same view, will not resolve the dispute. Any resolution will demand initiative. As the custodian of the nation's interests, the House should be given an answer at the conclusion of the debate. Is it the Minister's intention to allow the dispute to continue for months and months at a ruinous cost to all concerned, or will he do what has been done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) and see the two parties either individually or collectively to try to bring about a resolution? The nation demands an answer. We cannot abrogate our responsibility, although the Secretary of State might want to do so.
At the end of the debate, the nation will want to know how we treated the mining industry, which has a future. It may be that the nation will call us all to account when the next general election takes place although I hope that the dispute will not continue for that long. The Secretary of State should respond positively tonight.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) said that Conservative Members did not appreciate the effect of the reduction in coal capacity asked for by the Coal Board on those communities that will be affected and on the loss of jobs. Hon. Members who represent areas of high unemployment appreciate the problems that may have to be faced. Therefore, to bring the matter down to the level of fighting a class war in this Chamber or outside it, does neither the dispute nor the industry any good.
Three important matters arise from the dispute, and all miners should take notice of them. First, it is a great industry with a future, but much of what is going on will 520 do that future no good. There is the question of balance. If you are going to buy coal and build your industrial future on it——
§ Mr. Hind
I apologise, Sir. A consumer or purchaser is entitled to request that the National Union of Mineworkers follows the normal rules for industrial relations and seeks the support of its members before going on strike, and then follows the normal channels for negotiations. If the consumer is given that security, he will buy the product, which in this case is coal. Mr. Arthur Scargill must ask himself what he has to fear by taking the matter to a ballot of his union's members, if his case is just.
§ Mr. Hind
If Arthur Scargill fears democracy, he is leading his members up the garden path. That he will not call a ballot shows clearly that he is fighting a battle with the Government. He is not interested in long-term benefits for the members, whom he claims to represent. He should seek benefits for them and not a personal political gain from attempting to bring down the Conservative Government, which was properly elected through the ballot box on 9 June 1983.
The miners must put their house in order and bring that man to book. If there is no ballot and the miners return to work in dribs and drabs, they will be a demoralised work force with little hope for the future. That may result in 12 months time in our debating the next miners' strike. Some Conservative Members believe that unless the dispute is settled sensibly by negotiation and unless the NUM executive are realistic, the problem will remain a festering sore for many years to come.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West said that we were the shareholders of the company. If the miners believe that they will win the support of the general public by offending the rule of law, as they have done at Orgreave, and by standing outside coking plants with 6,000 pickets, they believe in the rule of the mob and not the rule of law and are leading themselves in the wrong direction. They are convincing themselves that they are right and are shutting their minds to right-thinking people who want to run society in an orderly manner. There is a correct way of proceeding, negotiating and picketing.
The third and most important factor is energy. I, with many other hon. Members, represent a manufacturing constituency. We are the consumers of the energy that comes, via the CEGB, from the pits. We are asking for a reduction of 4 million tonnes of coal, which represents less than 4 per cent. of total production. That will not close the' coal industry by any stretch of the imagination. We are simply asking the industry to cut the areas of expensive production and to bring prices to a more realistic level that is comparable with prices in other parts of the world. Can the mining industry, which produces coal at £46 a tonne, compete with American coal at between £23 to £27 a tonne, or with some European coal at between £16 and £19 a tonne?
If energy costs too much, manufacturers will have to cut employment opportunities. In the long term the miners will not do themselves a favour by pursuing the dispute and ignoring the logical economic arguments that cannot 521 be denied if one examines the statistics. We cannot produce coal at £78 a tonne and expect the country to continue to write a blank cheque for the mining industry. I sympathise with Opposition Members, but we cannot allow one industry to have a blank cheque written by the taxpayer if that means that the other industries in which our constituents work will suffer. The House must consider the more than 20 million people who are working and must balance against that figure the 40,000 miners who are in danger of losing their jobs during the next two years.
The miners should also compare the amount of investment in Britain with that in France and Germany. The British mining industry has had unprecedented investment and Government after Government have shown their willingness to invest in, and expand, new, profitable pits. We want a modern industry producing low-priced coal, which will benefit us all. The miners should know that with the dispute they are upsetting the future of their industry and putting off those who might have changed from oil-fired to coal-fired power. They should also consider the coal board's programme to assist them to set up in business and the marvellous terms for redundancy — [Interruption.] Opposition Members should talk to people in other industries who would give their eye-teeth to have similar redundancy payments. The miners should know that the opportunities being given to them are not being given to employees of other industries. They should realise that if they go back to work and sensibly ignore that man Scargill, who is interested only in his personal ambition, they will do well for their industry.
§ 9.9 pm
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
Since I became a Member 14 years ago, there have been three strikes in the coal industry. History clearly demonstrates that the 1972 strike could easily have been avoided. It is obvious that the 1974 strike could easily have been avoided. A consideration of the 1984 coal strike will, I believe, bring the same conclusion.
The 1984 strike could easily have been avoided without any settlement that could be described as one-sided, but there is another difference between the 1972 and 1974 strikes and this one. The 1972 and 1974 strikes had an element of good humour. There is little good humour about this strike, because this dispute is accompanied by an appalling level of hardship.
That fact was presented to me the other day by a junior schoolmaster in my constituency. He told me that he was walking along a corridor of his school when he saw a little eight-year old boy. He asked him how he was. The little boy said—(Interruption.] This is not a laughing matter. The scars that result from this type of experience will bring bitterness and grief to another generation of Conservatives. The boy said that he was not pleased with life because his mother was always crying.
I shall not give the name of the headmaster, because the Secretary of State for Education and Science wants to get rid of headmasters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, he does. There are 10,000 people waiting to take their jobs.
The Rawmarsh headmaster felt that he had to tell me that story because it was important. Labour Members are in the House of Commons because of the experience of their parents. One should have thought that people could have learnt a little more 30 or 40 years later. It is no 522 wonder that, when the Government seek to inflict the most desperate hardship and compound it by taxing generosity and the sense of responsibility in the community, there is a degree of bitterness because they have not pursued the important matters.
The Secretary of State is aware that I have sought to encourage a settlement. I have urged him to take action to avoid the dispute. In December, I warned him about the fragility of industrial relations, and he has ignored that warning. The right hon. Gentleman talked about investment. I referred him to the position at Cortonwood. The miners will take his comments on investment with a pinch of salt. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the amount of investment in the industry. There was investment at Cortonwood, with refurbished pithead baths, a brand new methane unit, and the drive to a new area of coal, which would have seen a new pitface in operation within four days of the Coal Board deciding to close Cortonwood. That pit will close in five weeks time. Enormous sums were invested at Cortonwood. Any miner at Cortonwood will take any comment by the Secretary of State with a pinch of salt. They need a greater sense of security.
At the beginning of the dispute—my constituents are well aware of this, if other hon. Members are not—I urged miners not to be involved in violence, because I could see what the national media would do with that. There has been violence, despite the fact that the vast majority of the members of the NUM have had nothing to do with violent actions. Responsible members of the NUM who share my anxiety have complained that the police have been turned into a national party political force in a way that is bound to bring grave danger to the community for a long time. If the Secretary of State wishes to contribute to peace in the mining industry, he should ask the Home Secretary when he will reply to letters containing detailed evidence of individual activity by police officers—it is only a minority of police officers —which does not justify the Home Secretary describing every miner's complaint as a lie or a smear.
I have sent statements to the Home Secretary from members of the NUM with whom I live and whom I believe and trust. They are deeply concerned about what they have seen. After nine or 10 weeks of such a situation, it is time that we had a reply. I have asked the Home Secretary to give me a guarantee, not that he will take action now, but that he will agree to an investigation when the dispute is eventually over.
The Secretary of State has told the House of confidence in the mining industry and the vast amount of money that the Government have invested in it. If the Secretary of State has taken an interest—I believe that he has, even though it be a quiet interest—he will be aware that vast: sums of money have been invested in many scores of colleries. He will know, far more than any Opposition Member, how much damage has occurred in colleries since the dispute began and how many scores of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been put at risk, and perhaps how much taxpayers' money has been put at risk at individual colleries. If he is the custodian of the nation's investment, as a responsible custodian he would take some note of the consequences of his inaction upon the taxpayers' investment.
There are rumours in the industry that it is not old., losing pits which are now at risk; it is vast modern ones upon which the country will have to depend for the next 523 30, 40 or 50 years. Whether they be loss-making pits, or profitable ones, most of our colleries are in areas where unemployment is at a deplorable and obscene level. In my constituency, 85 per cent. of the school leavers could not get a job last year. The strike and the effect of the Government's policy on the coal board will make that figure at least 90 per cent. this year.
Miners are right to be worried about their position and whether they should snatch the money that the Secretary of State is dangling before them and thus ensure that their children or their neighbours' children never obtain work. The Secretary of State ignores that aspect of the matter. It may be difficult for Conservative Members to begin to understand those human factors but somehow within the next few days they must begin to penetrate the consciousness of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) to speak, may I say to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) that it has been drawn to my attention that in the concluding part of his speech he said:They—that is, hon. Members—have no comprehension of how that bitterness will be increased when they read how the Prime Minister has lied to the House."I know that that was probably said in the heat of the moment, but I ask the right hon. Member to withdraw that phrase.
§ Mr. Foot
I expressed myself in extremely strong terms because I believe that it is deeply offensive to the House that the Prime Minister has not come here to answer the charges about how the House and the country have been misled by her statement on the matter. Naturally, Mr. Speaker, if you tell me that I expressed those strong feelings in unparliamentary language, I withdraw it on your instructions.
§ Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)
The House would wish me to compliment the two maiden speakers. I should probably refer to the Conservative Member first. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) paid a right and generous tribute to his predecessor. The hon. Member showed that he will be articulate enough to espouse his party's case, and no doubt we shall hear more from him. It is, of course, another pleasure for me to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on her maiden speech. Coming from the Rhondda valley, in south Wales, she made it clear that the miners and the people of that area have found a champion to espouse their cause. I am sure that we shall hear more from her. We were pleased that she was so articulate, and I compliment her on behalf of the House.
I have had the great privilege and pleasure of occupying these Benches now for about 12 years, and to speak on behalf of my party from the Front Bench. During those 12 years I have never listened to a debate of such major importance and significance in which senior Members were so noticeable by their absence. I think it is rather strange that that should happen. One wonders what is happening on the Government Benches for this to be so.
524 In response to the debate, I think it has to be recorded that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) who got the present talks going between the National Union of Mineworkers and the NCB with a view to settling the coal dispute. It is unpredecented that the initiative in such a major crisis affecting our country should have to come from the Opposition.
My right hon. Friend talked to both sides in the dispute. In the debate, Opposition Members—and any other hon. Members can join us—are entitled to ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether he talked to both sides involved in the dispute. Indeed, we are entitled to ask what initiatives, if any, he has helped, or tried to help, to resolve the dispute. I hope that we are not going to be told that the Government's policy is one of non-intervention. How is it possible to compromise apparent neutrality by talking to both sides involved in the dispute in this serious crisis that affects the nation? I say this "apparent neutrality", for that cover has already been blown for the Government, because they have been in contact throughout the dispute with the National Coal Board, and, I know, with Mr. Ian MacGregor.
It is essential tonight that the House be told what the Government strategy has amounted to. I submit that it can be described in two aspects. First, it has been a response for public presentation or public consumption. The policy of non-intervention has been trailered in the House, and trailered across the media. That is the word that has tripped gaily from the lips of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. Anyone who has some knowledge of the machinery of Government knows that the meaning of non-intervention is to conspire to bring about the defeat of the miners. I suggest that the word non-intervention is now a bit word-soiled. I know that my old mother of 85 years, who was secretary of the Spanish civil war relief fund, remembers the policy of Tory Government non-intervention.
The second aspect of this so-called strategy by the Government is allied to the first. It is a political strategy to starve the miners and their families into submission.
I have news for the Government. They will not succeed in starving the miners and their families into submission. As a strategy, it is bound to fail because in this debate we are appealing to the fair-mindedness of the British people, and they will not allow any Government to starve any section of industrial workers into submission. If that is Government strategy, they will succeed only in escalating the dispute because the trade union movement will not allow the miners to be starved into submission.
Every Government and every Head of Government has a responsibility to bear in an industrial dispute of this magnitude, and it is clear that the Prime Minister can be identified with the origins of this one. I refer to the appointment of Mr. Ian MacGregor as chairman of the NCB. The Prime Minister cannot wriggle out of that responsibility, for he was her appointment. It was the single most provocative political act of 1984.
It was made clear by the press corps at 10 Downing street that the right hon. Lady was full of admiration for Mr. MacGregor and was proud of what he had done to the steel industry, in which he was detested by management and workers alike. Based on that, there can be little doubt that his terms of reference were seen by the people working in the coal industry as an instruction that he should do to coal what he had done to steel.
525 It added insult to injury when we were informed at the time of the appointment of Mr. MacGregor that a fee of £1.5 million had to be paid to his firm in America for his secondment. It was a disgrace when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared on television and said that it was cheap at the price. Later in my remarks I shall show how cheap it has been.
We are entitled tonight to question the advice that must have been given by Mr. MacGregor at the outset of this dispute, which was to the effect that it would have little effect on the economy of the country because of the high stocks of coal. A servile and captive media also played the tune that the high stocks of coal would cause little or insignificant damage to the economy. In view of some of the speeches that have been made in this debate about the economic damage that the dispute has caused, that takes the biscuit.
It reeked of complacency when the chairman of the NCB a few weeks ago, from the cosy comfort of NCB headquarters in Hobart house, described the miners' dispute asa little temporary difficulty outside of town".I do not know whether it will be, or will be considered to have been, temporary, but it is certainly not a little difficulty. It is a whopper of an industrial dispute.
There is a growing realisation among the electors as a result of the dispute how much they have been diddled by the Conservatives, who campaigned on the basis that they would safeguard the public purse.Your money is safe in our handswas the slogan of every Tory politican at two general elections.
Unemployment and the Falklands war have been debated at great length because of their enormous expense, which is still growing. The miners' dispute looks like becoming a strong competitor in the expenditure of the nation. No wonder that the dispute is being captioned in every mining and industrial area as the Prime Minister's folly. There is good reason for it being named as such. If one adds it to the expenditure in the Falklands and the colossal cost of sustaining unemployment, we undoubtedly have the most irresponsible and extravagantly expensive Government ever in peacetime.
The miners' dispute is probably costing twice as much as the Falklands war. I restrain myself with great difficulty from going into details about — [Laughter.] —Conservative Members should not laugh, because there is nothing to laugh about—the misery and suffering that miners and their families are undergoing. That is nothing to laugh about. The dispute must be costing nearly £2.5 billion. That is why I refer to it as one of the most serious crises that we are undergoing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East said, we have the largest trade deficit ever in our balance of trade. The value of stocks and shares has been chopped since the start of the dispute, although not many miners will suffer from that.'
There is another factor, which is again no joke—it is serious. I calculate that about 700 places are standing idle all over the British coal fields. If this dispute lasts much longer, I estimate that about £1.75 billion worth of equipment underground will be at risk, but in Mr. MacGregor's words, this is a "little temporary difficulty".
I put it to the House in all seriousness that, because of his monumental incompetence, Mr. MacGregor should be 526 sacked immediately. [AN HON. MEMBER: "And the Prime Minister."] Yes. There will be a little more difficulty about that, but it will come.
As Mr. MacGregoror has withdrawn from the negotiations, he may wish to do the honourable thing and resign. The Minister's cover has been blown, and he must reply, as must the Minister of State, Department of Employment, to the statement in the Daily Mirror, which was somewhat echoed in The Observer last Sunday, that the Government are insisting that there have to be no agreed terms that could be interpreted as a victory for the NUM president. We are entitled to know whether those are the terms of negotiation given to the negotiators of the NCB. If that is so, that is the road to hell and disaster, and we will not bring this dispute to an end.
The miners' case in this dispute is overwhelming. The speeches of some Conservative Members illustrate that the miners' case has not been presented fairly. It has been polluted by picket line scenes on television and in the media. Never in living memory in an industrial dispute have the police been used as they have been today.
The second betrayal has been conservative talk of the gladiatorial battle between Mr. Ian MacGregor and Mr. Arthur Scargill. That certainly pollutes the argument. The issue is simple. The NCB made a unilateral declaration to get rid of 20 pits and 20,000 men this year. Mr. MacGregor said that it was based on an over-production of 4 million tonnes of coal. If there is any doubt about "Plan for Coal", that unilateral declaration was the first shot fired in the betrayal of that plan. The way that it has been presented to the public—as though the NCB had to take action to slim down the manpower and close the pits—ignores the fact that during the past three financial years, through pit closures, exhaustion and other factors, the coal industry has shed 43,000 men.
In my native land of Scotland, there have been six pit closures during the past 15 to 16 months, and two of them are the subject of dispute. We have lost 3,000 jobs, yet our unemployment rate is an absolute scandal. In some areas it is 70 or 80 per cent. among the youth.
The case for development of coal is overwhelming. It is the only fossil fuel that we have in abundance. There is sufficient coal to last us throughout the next century. As, has been pointed out by some of my hon. Friends, oil and gas are wasted assets. Some sources of energy will. disappear before the century is out. We know that by 1988 oil from the North sea will begin to dwindle. We also know that when we talk about coal and its future, we are talking about the industrial strategic importance of the nation. It is strategically important that we have a strong, thriving coal industry because of the problems in the Middle East, which is a cauldron of political uncertainty. If we contract our coal industry, we shall place the nation in industrial peril. We will need to make oil from coal.
The Secretary of State spoke of investment in coal. The House must be aware that the Government have not sunk one pit since they were elected in 1979. That is a betrayal of "Plan for Coal". As my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley said, if we look at global investment we see that the Government are operating a policy of contracting the coal fields in Durham, Scotland, Northumberland and south Wales. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that 81 per cent. of investment goes into Nottingham, the Midlands and Yorkshire. The other areas are left with 19 per cent. If that is not a policy of contraction, I do not know what is. We need new pits. Unless we sink new pits, 527 the industry will contract. The country is rich in coal, and we know the areas with potential for new pits—Wales, Scotland and so on.
It is not the miners who are on the rack tonight—it is the Government. That is why we will go into the Division Lobby and vote against the Government. Their policy is not just industrial suicide for the mining industry; it is industrial suicide for the nation as a whole.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Giles Shaw)
First, it is my pleasant duty to join those who have welcomed and congratulated the two hon. Members who made their maiden speeches today. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) on her speech and I share entirely her view of her late predecessor, loan Evans, who was much liked and admired by many Conservative Members. We wish the hon. Lady well in her time here. I am sorry that Cynon Valley seems to have been taken off the map temporarily, but it looks as though she will be putting it back. I very much welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and congratulate him, not just on the quality of his maiden speech but on his kind words, which we all endorse, about our late colleague, Hugh Fraser. We see in our new colleague the sense of style and dedication that characterised his predecessor and welcome him with the best of good wishes for the future.
Today's debate has had a most extraordinary character, not least because there are now a substantial number of Tory Members directly representing miners and there are more Tory Members than Opposition Members present for the winding-up speeches. My hon. Friends the Members for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), for Stafford (Mr. Cash), for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle), for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude), and for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) have all contributed to the debate with personal knowledge of their constituencies in which miners are represented. That is a major change which has overcome the House since the last general election.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
Does the Minister realise that those very miners have said today that they are now more determined then ever as a result of the Prime Minister misleading the House and deceiving them? Is he aware that he and the Secretary of State have completely lost the miners' trust and are regarded as bearing the same responsibility as the Prime Minister because they supported her in deceiving the House, which is what miners would call lying——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have already ruled that that word should not be used—not even by attribution.
§ Mr. Shaw
I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has to get his point in, but the incredible thing about the debate has been the silence of the Opposition about the 45,000 miners who are at work. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to the kind of intervention to which he was used to at the Department of Employment. He would have difficulty now to know what to do with a trade union of this nature, using its rule book 528 as it has, deciding not to have a national ballot, and with an enormous split within it. That is a major difference today, whatever may have been the case in the past.
The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) wound up in his characteristically generous style and we welcome him back to the Dispatch Box, but the Opposition cannot have it both ways. The hon. Gentleman asked when any new pits had been sunk. He seemed to have forgotten Asfordby, but as that pit is in Leicestershire he probably does not know of it. He called for new pits to be sunk, but his right hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Orme) said in opening that there was far too much investment in new pits and wanted investment in existing pits. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend clearly need to get together. I ask myself whether we should intervene in getting them together. Perhaps I could write a letter to the hon. Gentleman with a little footnote that he might care to carry out. We shall get the two sides together.
I can give the right hon. Gentleman the answer to his question. In terms of investment in existing mines, since the Government came to power in 1979 the figures for projects worth more than £500,000—and the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that those are substantial projects—are as follows: in 1978–79, £136 million; in 1979–80, £174 million; in 1980–81, £212 million, and in 1981–82, £229 million. There is no shred of evidence to suggest that investment policy has been biased towards excluding the development of existing pits. Far from it.
§ Mr. Shaw
The record will be studied. My hon. Friends will draw their conclusions and the right hon. Gentleman will draw his conclusions.
Many points have been made in the debate. I respect the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood voiced the interests and importance of the Nottingham miners. He rightly drew attention to the massive intimidation that there has been in his constituency. To his credit, my hon. Friend says that the future is all that matters. The miners of Nottinghamshire are just as dedicated to that future as anyone else. They are demonstrating their faith in the future.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that 87 per cent. of the miners are on strike. That is just not so. One can give or take a few percentage points at around 75 per cent., but certainly 25 to 27 per cent. of the miners are currently working, and I trust that that number will continue to grow, as it is steadily growing each day.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about ratting on "Plan for Coal" by abandoning the volume target. He should recall his own Green Paper on energy. The volume target was not accepted by the Government of the day, and it was deleted from the eventual proposals.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we were penalising the men on strike by withholding redundancy payments. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Government and the NCB are determined to ensure that men who take redundancy and who have agreed terms of redundancy will receive their redundancy pay. The arrangement that was announced last week, as the right hon. Gentleman should know, is that a change will be 529 made to enable the recovery to take place. That should ensure that the vast majority of the moneys outstanding will be paid out under the redundancy arrangements that have been made. We intend to see that that is done at the earliest convenient opportunity.
There was a magnificent demonstration of spontaneous combustion from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who was in very good form. He pirouetted gracefully on most of the aspects of the dispute. He prayed in aid the Ayatollah Khomeini — a new diversionary tactic for him. He did his standard stuff, and it was of the best quality. We wish him well in his discussions with the two or three people who share his points of view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet), rightly drew our attention to the problems of the steel industry and the way in which the industry was being treated by the miners. It would be more than a tragedy, it would be an economic disaster of the first magnitude, if such action were taken in relation to this dispute. We wish it well in sorting that problem out as well.
The hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) was concerned to keep every pit open, and at full production. If that happened, because of the average price of British mined coal, there would be nothing but increases in stocks and lower sales. At the heart of the dispute and the debate lies one theme—how the mining industry can find a stable and viable future. Closures have always been part of the discussions on mining policy. The documentation is clear on that. We find that in the earliest documents of the Government in 1974, when examining "Plan for Coal" in its coal industry examination committee. Time and again that committee returned to the point. It said that the transformed outlook for coal was dependent on the fact that costs should remain competitive overall and that those costs must bear in mind the cost of uneconomic pits where they exist. The energy policy document of 1978 said on the key issue of productivity:In order to make the most effective contribution to meeting demand for energy the coal industry will need to operate at the highest possible level of production and lowest level of cost. The cost of coal production from existing capacity is rising as … operations take place further from the pit bottom.Cost is at the heart of the discussion about the problem in the coal industry. It came into most prominent relief in the exposure given to it by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report of 1983. I appreciate that that report is not always the best reading for Opposition Members so I shall refer to the Energy Select Committee's report of December 1982. It examined the problem of pit closures and took evidence from the NUM and others. In conclusion (xv) it said:There can be no doubt that the very high cost of the Board's marginal and at least in the short term, surplus capacity unfavourably distorts the coal industry's financial position, and imposes a considerable drain upon public funds.Conclusion (xvii) says:In sum, to judge by their evidence to us, the NUM appear to believe that, in order to maintain employment in mining, the industry should be encouraged and financed to produce as much coal as it possibly can, and that the country somehow has an obligation to find ways of consuming it.It was therefore inevitable that the Committee should conclude in conclusion (xix) as follows:The Board must take steps to bring its capacity more into line with existing and expected demands for coal.530 That is what the problem is all about. The problem has been deflected for month after month and for year after year.
§ Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)
I am grateful to the Minister for enabling me to say what the dispute is about. It is about job opportunities and the loss of them. Will he give us an assurance that there will be job opportunities in the mining industry for school leavers and unemployed people in mining areas? That is what the dispute is about and that is the assurance that we want.
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the prospects for job opportunities in an industry that cannot sell its product are virtually zero. Restructuring is therefore essential for such prospects. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if the board is able to put the industry on a viable and sound footing, there will undoubtedly be jobs for youngsters. That is the board's intention.
I accept entirely that severe community hardships are being suffered in areas where pits are closed. The Government have taken some steps in relation to RMPS payments, which I recognise that some may not regard as sufficient. However, those steps are immensely greater than any taken by the previous Labour Government. In addition, the board has announced—I trust that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) knows—that an NCB enterprise company will be set up with the specific task of aiding and assisting in the development of businesses in areas where closures take place and helping to bring together the various services that can help create new jobs. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether that measure had Government support and I said that the Government fully support the NCB in what it does. He will be aware that the board will be making the initial investment but he will equally be aware that every penny that the board currently spends comes from the Government's account.
§ Mr. Douglas
We have been treated to the Government's view on a range of aspects but we have not been given what many have asked for — the Government's view on how the present dispute will be resolved. Can we have that?
§ Mr. Shaw
Negotiations are now taking place between the NCB and the NUM. I welcome the meetings between the right hon. Member for Salford, East, the chairman of the NCB and the leader of the NUM. I am not so certain that it is because of the sugar plum fairy that they are taking place. Those negotiations have come about after many months of waiting for the NUM and we wish those negotiations success. The hon. Gentleman would not expect any further comment a s the negotiations will be resumed tomorrow.
The future of the coal industry——
§ Mr. Mason
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that there has been a conspiratorial alliance of secrecy by Ministers and Government Departments while the Prime Minister has been deliberately misleading the House week after week, denying involvement by the Government and Ministers while at the same time the Government have been manipulating unions to isolate the NUM. Why has the Department of Energy, which must have known more about the matter than any other Department, gone along with the Prime Minister in misleading the nation, being guilty of terminological inexactitudes——
§ Mr. Shaw
I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should abuse an intervention in that way with all the experience that he commands. It was made abundantly clear at Question Time today how that matter should be viewed.
In conclusion, let me establish beyond doubt that the Government have provided the vast resources necessary to enable the industry to have a viable and substantial future. Within the industry at present there is a major dispute in that a large proportion of the NUM is working and a larger proportion is on strike. It is absolutely absurd for hon. Members to suggest that that is a situation that can be solved by any means other than by the union itself. It is absurd that no ballot has taken place.
Finally, in so far as the country can have a secure and viable coal industry, it will be because the price of coal fits the market. That is the way in which we look forward to a strong and viable future for the industry.
I call upon my hon. Friends to support our amendment in the Lobby.
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 272.534
|Division No. 357]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Clay, Robert|
|Anderson, Donald||Clwyd, Ms Ann|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cohen, Harry|
|Ashton, Joe||Coleman, Donald|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Conlan, Bernard|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Barnett, Guy||Corbett, Robin|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bell, Stuart||Cowans, Harry|
|Benn, Tony||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Craigen, J. M.|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Crowther, Stan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Blair, Anthony||Dalyell, Tam|
|Boyes, Roland||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Deakins, Eric|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dixon, Donald|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Dobson, Frank|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Dormand, Jack|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Douglas, Dick|
|Buchan, Norman||Dubs, Alfred|
|Caborn, Richard||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Eadie, Alex|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Eastham, Ken|
|Campbell, Ian||Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Ellis, Raymond|
|Canavan, Dennis||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Ewing, Harry|
|Fatchett, Derek||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Nellist, David|
|Fisher, Mark||O'Brien, William|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Forrester, John||Parry, Robert|
|Foster, Derek||Patchett, Terry|
|Foulkes, George||Pendry, Tom|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Pike, Peter|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|George, Bruce||Prescott, John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Radice, Giles|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Randall, Stuart|
|Golding, John||Redmond, M.|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Hardy, Peter||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Robertson, George|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Rogers, Allan|
|Haynes, Frank||Rooker, J. W.|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Ryman, John|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|John, Brynmor||Skinner, Dennis|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Snape, Peter|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Spearing, Nigel|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stott, Roger|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Strang, Gavin|
|Lamond, James||Straw, Jack|
|Leighton, Ronald||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Litherland, Robert||Thome, Stan (Preston)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Tinn, James|
|Loyden, Edward||Torney, Tom|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Wareing, Robert|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Weetch, Ken|
|McKelvey, William||Welsh, Michael|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||White, James|
|McNamara, Kevin||Wigley, Dafydd|
|McTaggart, Robert||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Madden, Max||Wilson, Gordon|
|Marek, Dr John||Winnick, David|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Woodall, Alec|
|Martin, Michael||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Maxton, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. John Home Robertson.|
|Adley, Robert||Benyon, William|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Berry, Sir Anthony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Best, Keith|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Amess, David||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Ancram, Michael||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Arnold, Tom||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Ashby, David||Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Bright, Graham|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Brinton, Tim|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)|
|Beggs, Roy||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Bellingham, Henry||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Bendall, Vivian||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hind, Kenneth|
|Burt, Alistair||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Holt, Richard|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hooson, Tom|
|Cash, William||Hordern, Peter|
|Chope, Christopher||Howard, Michael|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunter, Andrew|
|Coombs, Simon||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Cope, John||Irving, Charles|
|Couchman, James||Jackson, Robert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jessel, Toby|
|Critchley, Julian||Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Crouch, David||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Key, Robert|
|Dover, Den||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dunn, Robert||Knowles, Michael|
|Durant, Tony||Latham, Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Evennett, David||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fallon, Michael||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Farr, John||Lester, Jim|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Forman, Nigel||McCusker, Harold|
|Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)||Maclean, David John|
|Forth, Eric||Maginnis, Ken|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Major, John|
|Fox, Marcus||Maples, John|
|Franks, Cecil||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Freeman, Roger||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Fry, Peter||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Galley, Roy||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Moate, Roger|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Gorst, John||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Gow, Ian||Moore, John|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Greenway, Harry||Mudd, David|
|Gregory, Conal||Murphy, Christopher|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Grist, Ian||Nicholson, J.|
|Ground, Patrick||Norris, Steven|
|Grylls, Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Osborn, Sir John|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Page, John (Harrow W)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Parris, Matthew|
|Harris, David||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Harvey, Robert||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Pawsey, James|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Porter, Barry|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Hayes, J.||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Powley, John|
|Hayward, Robert||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Heddle, John||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Henderson, Barry||Rathbone, Tim|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hickmet, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hicks, Robert||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Rowe, Andrew||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Ryder, Richard||Thurnham, Peter|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Tracey, Richard|
|Scott, Nicholas||Trippier, David|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Trotter, Neville|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Viggers, Peter|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Waddington, David|
|Shersby, Michael||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Silvester, Fred||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Sims, Roger||Walden, George|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)||Waller, Gary|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Ward, John|
|Spencer, Derek||Warren, Kenneth|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Watson, John|
|Squire, Robin||Watts, John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Stanley, John||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Steen, Anthony||Wheeler, John|
|Stern, Michael||Whitney, Raymond|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Wood, Timothy|
|Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)||Yeo, Tim|
|Stokes, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Sumberg, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Michael Neubert.|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Questions, That the proposed words be three added, put forthwith pursuant to standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments).
§ The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 178.537
|Division No. 358]||[10.15 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bright, Graham|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Brinton, Tim|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Amess, David||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)|
|Ancram, Michael||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Arnold, Tom||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Ashby, David||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Burt, Alistair|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Carlisle, John (N Luton)|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Carttiss, Michael|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Cash, William|
|Batiste, Spencer||Chope, Christopher|
|Beggs, Roy||Churchill, W. S.|
|Bellingham, Henry||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Benyon, William||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Best, Keith||Colvin, Michael|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Coombs, Simon|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Cope, John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Couchman, James|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Critchley, Julian|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Crouch, David|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Dorrell, Stephen||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dover, Den||Knight,.Gregory (Derby N)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Knowles, Michael|
|Dunn, Robert||Lang, Ian|
|Durant, Tony||Latham, Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Evennett, David||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fallon, Michael||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Farr, John||Lester, Jim|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Forman, Nigel||McCusker, Harold|
|Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)||Maclean, David John|
|Forth, Eric||Maginnis, Ken|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Major, John|
|Fox, Marcus||Maples, John|
|Franks, Cecil||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Freeman, Roger||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Fry, Peter||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Galley, Roy||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Moate, Roger|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Gorst, John||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Gow, Ian||Moore, John|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Greenway, Harry||Mudd, David|
|Gregory, Conal||Murphy, Christopher|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Neubert, Michael|
|Grist, Ian||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Ground, Patrick||Nicholson, J.|
|Grylls, Michael||Norris, Steven|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Osborn, Sir John|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Page, John (Harrow W)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Harris, David||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Harvey, Robert||Parris, Matthew|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Pawsey, James|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Hayes, J.||Porter, Barry|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Hayward, Robert||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Powley, John|
|Heddle, John||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Henderson, Barry||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Hickmet, Richard||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hicks, Robert||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hind, Kenneth||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Holt, Richard||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Hooson, Tom||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Hordern, Peter||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Howard, Michael||Rowe, Andrew|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Ryder, Richard|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Hunter, Andrew||Scott, Nicholas|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Irving, Charles||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Jackson, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Jessel, Toby||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Shersby, Michael|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Silvester, Fred|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Sims, Roger|
|Key, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Trippier, David|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Trotter, Neville|
|Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Spencer, Derek||Viggers, Peter|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Waddington, David|
|Squire, Robin||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Stanley, John||Walden, George|
|Steen, Anthony||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Stern, Michael||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Ward, John|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)||Watson, John|
|Stokes, John||Watts, John|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Sumberg, David||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wheeler, John|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Terlezki, Stefan||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Wood, Timothy|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Yeo, Tim|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Mr. Archie Hamilton and Mr. Douglas Hogg.|
|Abse, Leo||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Dalyell, Tam|
|Anderson, Donald||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Deakins, Eric|
|Ashton, Joe||Dobson, Frank|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Dormand, Jack|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Douglas, Dick|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dubs, Alfred|
|Barnett, Guy||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Eadie, Alex|
|Bell, Stuart||Eastham, Ken|
|Benn, Tony||Ellis, Raymond|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Ewing, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fatchett, Derek|
|Blair, Anthony||Faulds, Andrew|
|Boyes, Roland||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Foster, Derek|
|Buchan, Norman||Foulkes, George|
|Caborn, Richard||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||George, Bruce|
|Campbell, Ian||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Canavan, Dennis||Golding, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Clay, Robert||Hardy, Peter|
|Clwyd, Ms Ann||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Cohen, Harry||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Coleman, Donald||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Conlan, Bernard||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Corbett, Robin||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Cowans, Harry||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Craigen, J. M.||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Redmond, M.|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|John, Brynmor||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Robertson, George|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rogers, Allan|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Rooker, J. W.|
|Lamond, James||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ryman, John|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Litherland, Robert||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Loyden, Edward||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Short, Mrs H.(W'hampfn NE)|
|McKelvey, William||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Skinner, Dennis|
|McNamara, Kevin||Snape, Peter|
|McTaggart, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Madden, Max||Stott, Roger|
|Marek, Dr John||Strang, Gavin|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Straw, Jack|
|Martin, Michael||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Maxton, John||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Meacher, Michael||Tinn, James|
|Michie, William||Torney, Tom|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wareing, Robert|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Weetch, Ken|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Welsh, Michael|
|Nellist, David||White, James|
|O'Brien, William||Wigley, Dafydd|
|O'Neill, Martin||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wilson, Gordon|
|Parry, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Patchett, Terry||Woodall, Alec|
|Pendry, Tom||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Prescott, John||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Don Dixon.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
'That this House confirms that the future of the coal industry will depend on the industry's success in deploying its assets so as to keep coal competitive with other fuels; welcomes the action of the Government in providing more capital investment for the industry than any previous Government in order to achieve a successful future for the industry, noting that their investment of over £3.9 billion has not only far exceeded investment in the industry by the last Labour Government, but has substantially exceeded the scale of investment envisaged in the "Plan for Coal"; welcomes the steps taken by the National Coal Board and the Government to ensure that, in areas where a reduction in uneconomic capacity is being considered, miners affected will be treated more generously and with greater understanding than in the past, to the benefit of mining communities; notes that the early retirement and voluntary redundancy provisions are more generous than those of any other industry, and have helped create a situation in which the National Coal Board can assure any miner now employed that he will be able to continue working as a miner if he desires to do so; welcomes also the action of the National Coal Board to assist mining communities by creating a new enterprise company; and calls upon all those in the industry to co-operate to achieve the higher productivity essential to keep coal competitive and secure the future prosperity of the industry and its employees.'